Kivalina is an Alaskan village whose inhabitants may soon become the US’s first climate change refugees. Their story inspired the six-song EP from Terry and Wong, both established artists in their own right.
Alex Wong is a solo artist and a TV and film producer and composer who has worked with Delta Rae, Vienna Teng, and Ari Hest among others. Having grown up in California, he explains that he felt compelled to examine the stories of the Kivalina villagers because he’s always been aware of the prospect of the land that raised you falling away. “When Jesse and I first read about the people of Kivalina, we saw our own friends and families in their stories. It’s hard to imagine how I would cope with my homeland disappearing beneath my feet and what it would do to my relationships, my sense of history, and my thoughts of the future.”
Jesse Terry, a John Lennon Songwriting Contest and CMT/NSAI Song Contest grand prize winner, is a veteran performer across the US, with appearances at Bonnaroo, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and Falcon Ridge to name a few. He recently told Vents Magazine, “Often we’re hearing about climate change without fully grasping the repercussions; how does this change affect a family or affect a culture or affect future generations? When you hear the stories of four hundred villagers and hear about what is happening to them RIGHT NOW, it makes everything seem more tangible, relatable and dire. My wife and I had our first child in August of 2018 and that amplified everything for me…now I’m thinking so much about how climate change will affect my little girl as she grows up.”
“Thieves” paints a picture of building a home and then feeling alienated, if not literally cast out: “Thieves came in the winter, stole you away…Gazing over the ocean, hearing the birds sing, but I am not here.” It’s the most internal perspective on an EP of songs that often deal in more direct statements and imagery. (“The ice is too thin.” “Who’s to say what is civilized?”)
About ‘Thieves,’ Terry explains:
‘Thieves’ was the first song Alex and I wrote together that was inspired by the stories of Kivalina villagers. There’s such an injustice to their plight and it’s heartbreaking that so much is being stolen from them: their history, their trade, their income, their heritage and lastly, the very ground that they stand upon. It’s tragically ironic that they have very little to do with this theft. They live a simple, peaceful life and leave virtually no carbon footprint, but their land up in the Arctic Circle is being affected greatly by the more developed areas of the world. It’s our sincere hope that the world and its citizens will make sweeping changes to the way we treat our only planet. If we don’t, it’s our fear that much more will be stolen from all of us. And eventually, many of us will have to face what the people of Kivalina are facing right now. It’s time for change.
Taken together, Kivalina‘s six songs form a compelling portrait of a people whose homeland is under imminent threat.
Listen to “Thieves” below. Kivalina is out September 13.