The Nexus Between Environmental Stress, Resource Governance and Demographic Change in Norton Sound, Alaska
The decision to migrate is a complex and multi-faceted one. In Northern Alaska, environmental changes are occurring at an unprecedented rate, resulting in forms of stress that generate a hard decision for residents of dozens of Alaska Native communities: whether to leave home, or remain in place and cope with the changes that come. In my thesis, I explore the connections between environmental change and demographic change in Norton Sound, Alaska. Specifically, I consider how fisheries disruptions impact rural commercial fishers, using a mixed methods approach. Employing the Attachment, Alternatives, Buffering framework to analyze my data, I identify many socio-economic and environmental factors that influence how individual resource users experience and respond to sources of environmental stress. My analysis provides a better understanding of how demographic change – or the lack thereof – in rural, environmentally-threatened communities is highly influenced by resource governance and management structures, such as the Western Alaska Community Development Quota program. By better understanding these interconnections, my research demonstrates how resource governance structures can promote adaptability in rural, predominantly-Indigenous communities. My results indicate that individuals did not leave imperilled locations as a result of resource disruption, though some households are leaving now. I also found that certain resource governance structures such as the CDQ program, are influencing adaptive capacity within at-risk communities and in some cases, may actually be working produce more just and locally-appropriate adaptations to environmental stressors.
Indigenous resources users, fisheries collapse, environmental stress, mobility, out-migration, relocation, adaptation
Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)
School of Environment and Sustainability
Environment and Sustainability