Synopsis

In an epic battle against the world’s biggest polluters – the oil and gas corporations – Kivalina, a tiny village in Northwest Alaska struggles to survive and save itself from the consequences of global warming.

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Global warming threatens Kivalina, an ancient Inuit village on a tiny island off the northwest coast of Alaska, with imminent destruction. KIVALINA V. EXXON is a feature documentary film that portrays the epic struggle of this Inupiat community to save their village, and to force the world’s worst polluters to pay for the consequences of global warming.

The winter sea ice that once protected the 400 residents of Kivalina is receding at an unprecedented rate, exposing this Arctic village of Inupiat Eskimos, perched on a small barrier island on the Chukchi Sea, to the battering ram of fall and winter storms and putting the village’s buildings and infrastructure in “imminent danger of falling into the sea.”

Traditional hunting practices have also become less productive and increasingly more dangerous. With time running out for their village, and convinced that the erosion was due to man-made global warming, the residents sought legal advice. In February 2008, a suit was filed on behalf of Kivalina residents in a San Francisco court by two of the top litigators in the United States: Steve Berman and Steve Susman, who were on opposite sides during the 1990’s tobacco company lawsuits which ultimately prevailed against Phillip Morris.

The lawsuit against two dozen of the world’s most powerful oil, coal and power companies including: ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., Chevron Corp., and BP alleges that “defendants are responsible for a substantial portion of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that have caused global warming and thus Kivalina’s damage.” The plaintiffs are asking the court to make Exxon and all pay for the costs of moving the village to safe and protected ground.

KIVALINA V. EXXON is the story of great drama. Kivalina’s residents are the ultimate little guys clashing with economic and political giants. Native island communities like Kivalina are most at risk from radical climate change and the first to suffer from it. Those who have benefited the least from the unsustainable pace of economic growth propelled by the burning of fossil fuels are facing an uncertain future of suffering and dislocation. They are the proverbial canaries in the coalmine, the first indication of impending disaster that could engulf the entire planet.

The forces that seek to expand fossil fuel production and economic growth at all costs and those fighting to avert a global climate disaster are locked in a ‘titanic battle’. Because governments have failed thus far to resolve this ‘clash’, those whom it directly affects have taken it to the courts. The stakes of the trial’s outcome could not be higher: for the energy companies, a forced settlement would leave them open to a barrage of similar suits and irrevocably change the way they do business. As for the residents of Kivalina, this is nothing less than a struggle to exist, with the encroaching sea a daily reminder of their vulnerability in the face of climate change.