Climate Change Washes Away Couple’s History — Making First Climate Refugees

Landscape concept of climate change

It was seven decades ago that Wenceslaus and Denicia Billiot were wed. The wedding party consisted of a lot of dancing which took place on a road that stretched from one end of the Isle de Jean Charles all the way down to the other. Thanks to climate change, that road where Wenceslaus and Denicia Billiot started their lives together is now almost completely gone.

The Isle de Jean Charles, where the couple call home, can be found roughly 80 miles away from New Orleans. Thanks to climate change, the comfortable little island has slowly been sinking over the last few decades. Since the year 1955, the cozy little island has lost 98 percent of its land mass to climate change. Research reveals the sea levels could rise an additional three feet by the time this century comes to an end if the current direction global warming is headed in continues.

Unfortunately for those who live on Isle de Jean Charles, the continued path of global warming thanks to climate change would wash the island away completely. After all, there is only roughly half a square mile of land on the island that is still floating above water. Aware of the danger the residents of Isle de Jean Charles are in, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted $48 million to Louisiana last year with the hopes of relocating the residents. This would make those who remain on the small island the very first U.S. climate refugees.

Unsurprisingly, the residents of the small island have pretty mixed feelings when it comes to leaving. This is largely because most of those who live on the island have called it their home since they were born. Back in 1950, this small island was home to roughly 80 different families. Today, there are only 30 families left living on the island. Currently, these families are waiting out the process of being relocated. The deadline for the state of Louisiana to spend the federal funding and relocate the island’s community is 2022.

The Billiots have the pleasure of being the oldest living family still on the island. Wenceslaus Billiot and his wife have lived on the island their entire life. Wenceslaus claims to remember when you could look out and see the island stretching for miles and miles in both directions. Today, he claims you can see nothing but water in either direction.

Isle de Jean Charles is slowly being consumed by water

The Billiots are not sure how to feel about having to relocate given the fact that they have had four generations of children and grandchildren since they were married on the island back in 1947, according to CNN. The couple plans on staying on the island as long as it is safe for them to do so because they have lived and raised four generations there – the island is the only home this couple has ever known.

Naturally, there are some dangers to living on a small island that is not directly connected to the rest of the world. Last year, Wenceslaus Billiot took a spill and ended up hitting his head. The nearest hospital to where the couple lives is over a half an hour away. This couple, however, has no intentions of passing away anytime soon. Wenceslaus is currently 90-years-old and has the intention of living to be at least 105. There is a very real chance Wenceslaus and his wife could outlive the island they call home.

Isle de Jean Charles is slowly being washed away by climate change

How do you feel knowing this couple’s home and family history is being washed away by climate change? What are your thoughts on the residents of this island being the very first U.S. climate refugees? Share your thoughts with us in the comment’s section found down below.

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