Local youths lead a growing Alaska climate justice movement

Youth around Alaska have been at the forefront of recent actions: over 300 people in Fairbanks joined 4 million people globally as part of the youth climate strikes and sixteen young Alaskans are suing the state for contributing to climate change. Young people are mobilizing at unprecedented scales to fight for our futures. Here in Fairbanks, we have drafted seventeen demands, one for each of the months we have left to take decisive political steps to prevent the serious damage of our planet, due to climate change.

My name is Nanieezh Peter. I am a Sophomore at West Valley High School. I walked out on Friday, September 20th to raise awareness within our community on climate change. That feeling of solidarity when so many students and community members joined me showed me that my community will have my back and join youth in this fight. It is empowering to me as a young person to see all the strikes happening around the globe and know that my actions can change the world. I strike for our planet and our future.

Our local Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) chapter’s 17 demands include: protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, implement co-management of all Indigenous lands, reduce Golden Valley Electric Association’s carbon emissions, unify Railbelt to increase the number of  homes powered by renewable energy, add climate change to school curriculum, make schools more energy efficient, stop using fossil fuels, add young people to Fairbanks’ climate change task force, transition to 100% clean energy, and achieve justice for the people most impacted by the climate crisis.

My name is JoAnn Donovan, I am a senior at North Pole High School. I believe, as an Alaskan, that I have to do my part in order to fight against the idea that climate change is not happening and that there is nothing we can do about it. I believe that there is something that can be done, and that needs to be done, in order to reach our goal, undivided by generations. People will have to open their eyes, and see that they can do something about it. For too long, I kept a blind eye towards what I, personally, am contributing as well. This is why I have joined this movement. I want to see a change in others as well as myself. 

My name is Cassidy Austin and I am a 17 year old from McCarthy, Alaska. I feel very passionately about defending my state and its natural resources. Growing up observing the changes taking place in the Copper River Watershed has motivated me to protect our waterways and landscapes by speaking up and getting involved in the public process. Although I am young and cannot vote yet, I know it is important for people my age to speak out because this is our planet and our future.

We mean business and the climate crisis cannot wait. We feel it is important to take action now, because our futures depend upon it. We are uniquely positioned here in Alaska to follow Indigenous leadership and implement climate change solutions.  As Alaskans, we see first hand the drastic impacts of climate change on our villages and communities.

My name is Shaina Atcherian, I’m from Chevak. Climate change is affecting my community. Climate change is affecting all the communities in Alaska. Some of the impacts on my community are that the fish are dying, our winters are getting shorter, and affecting migration patterns of our birds. We are catching fewer fish because of the amount of heat we are getting in the summer. We are receiving less snow during the winter, which is making it harder to travel or get the fish that stay during the winter time. Now, when the berries come out, the sun dries them up, not leaving enough berries for the community to have throughout the winter. These are just some of the impacts that climate change has on our community

We, and the many other youth around Alaska, know that standing up for our futures is an urgent matter. We are all doing our parts the best we can to fight climate change, we just need our policymakers to do the same. This youth led pressure will continue to grow until policy changes are implemented. We ask our elected officials and Alaskans of all ages to support us by taking bold climate action. We urge the Dunleavy administration to reinstate the Climate Action Leadership Team and encourage Senator Murkowski to support the 100% Clean Energy Economy Bill. There are clear actions people in power can take now and if they don’t, our generation will suffer most. 

By: Nanieezh Peter 15 years old, Shaina Atcherian 15 years old, JoAnn Donovan 17 years old, Cassidy Austin 17 years old.

Originally posted in the Daily News-Miner on October 14,2019 

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