Chris Brunet has a tough decision to make, and he’s quickly running out of time.
As a lifelong resident of Isle de Jean Charles, Brunet, 54, is considered to be among America’s first “climate refugees.” He’s contemplating whether to stay on the sinking island, located on the coast of Louisiana, or relocate, leaving the only place he’s ever called home.
As a result of rising sea levels, coastal erosion and hurricanes, Isle de Jean Charles is starting to disappear. Since 1955, the 22,000-acre island has lost roughly 98% of its land, and the future looks bleak. Some estimates predict it will be fully submerged under water in five to 25 years. It’s why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved a $48 million federal grant ― the first of its kind ― to relocate the community, primarily Native Americans, to higher ground by 2024. As part of the voluntary resettlement project, Louisiana is developing a new area about 40 miles northwest of the island on some 515 acres of land.
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