This segment originally aired Oct. 24, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.
“When you see fish swimming on your road, you’ve got major problems,” Dave Schulte, a marine biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told VICE News correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross. “That’s for sure.”
Welcome to Tangier Island, on the Virginia side of the Chesapeake Bay, where 500 residents are struggling to cope with rising waters that are claiming more of their land each year.
“I refuse to become a climate change refugee,” Tangier Island Mayor James “Ooker” Eskridge said. Yet that’s exactly what community residents will be facing later this century without intervention, Schulte projected.
Since 1850, the island has lost two-thirds of its land mass. Many residents believe building a $30 million sea wall is Tangier’s only hope of saving what remains of the island, but Congress hasn’t approved funding for the wall.
“If we don’t get a sea wall, this is what you’ll find on Tangier in a few years: remnants of homes,” Tangier Island resident Carol Pruitt-Moore said.
Schulte warns that Tangier isn’t an isolated case but rather a sign of things to come. “As climate change is impacting us, we’re going to be making these decisions over and over again all over the country,” he said. “Who are we going to move? What are we going to do?”