The Alaska Conservation Fund
- Location: AK
- Marching Since: November 09, 2005
Alaska is ground-zero for global warming. We are living with the consequences every day. Alaskans have witnessed the rapid melting of our magnificent glaciers, the record-breaking forest fires each summer, and the insect infestations that have ravaged 4 million acres of spruce forests. The temperature of the vast Yukon River has warmed ten degrees, resulting in diseased salmon. We have also seen warmer streams and higher siltation from glacial runoff in the famous salmon streams of the Kenai Peninsula. Scientists now predict that the disappearing sea ice could mean the extinction of polar bears by the end of this century, if not sooner.>
Alaska’s cultures are also at risk. Virtually every aspect of traditional Alaska Native life is impacted. As migration patterns of whales, caribou, moose, and other animals change hunting becomes less reliable. It also becomes more dangerous with changing sea and river ice, increasing storm activity, and higher river levels during traditional hunting periods. Indigenous peoples across the Arctic have noticed the appearance of insects, birds, and fish not seen before.
The environmental and cultural costs of global warming are clear, and so are the economic costs. Roads, bridges, ports, water and wastewater systems, pipelines, utilities, and buildings are all threatened by both the thawing permafrost and coastal erosion. Four Alaska coastal villages that are literally falling into the ocean due to stronger storms, lack of protective shore ice, and warming permafrost are now making plans to relocate. Well over a hundred more are at risk. The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that relocating just one of these villages would cost between $100 million and $400 million. There are also public health costs. This summer, the city of Fairbanks had to open “breathing centers” because of the heavy smoke from forest fires.
Alaska is the “canary in the coalmine” for the rest of the country. The rapid changes taking place in our state are not far off for the rest of the country. As a community foundation whose mission is to protect the integrity of Alaska’s ecosystems and promote sustainable livelihoods for Alaska’s communities and people, global warming affects everything we do. That is why we have joined the march and are encouraging Alaskans and everyone who cares about Alaska’s magnificent natural resources and vibrant cultures to do the same. As witnesses to global warming here and now, we understand urgent action is needed. The solutions are at hand. Our leaders need to act.