Josie Adasiak, a sophomore at Lathrop High School, joined 12 teenagers from across the state at the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Youth Organizer Summit at the end of October to address climate change in Alaska. She is also leading the AYEA chapter in Fairbanks for local teens.
The four-day conference was packed with information and learning about activism and community organizing, Adasiak said. “It’s easy to feel dejected about climate change, like nothing is being done, so it was really encouraging to be around people who care as much as I do,” she said. It felt good to be working towards solutions, she added.
“I’ve always been really connected with nature,” Adasiak said. “I’ve seen the impacts of climate change in real time throughout my lifetime.” She recalls frequently skiing on the Chena River in elementary school in third and fourth grade, but by sixth grade her class went skiing once because the river wasn’t frozen enough. “I want to protect [the environment] and keep this stuff for future kids,” she said.
Last summer, Adasiak got involved in the Community Roots Program at Calypso Farm where she worked out of the Hunter Elementary School garden and sold fresh foods to the Southside community. She connected with her community through food and learned about food justice and security, she said.
The statewide goal is “protecting Alaskans’ access to food through action and education,” Adasiak said. Alaska is reliant on food being shipped from the Lower 48 and around the world, she said.
Adasiak is using the community organizing skills she learned at the AYEA summit to start an AYEA chapter in Fairbanks with local teens. Young Alaskans are the future of Alaska, Adasiak said. They plan to work with legislators to advocate for environmental and food-related actions.
“People who are food secure don’t always think that many Alaskans are not food secure,” she said. She will work to bring awareness to food insecurity and introduce more community agriculture projects.
Her goal in Fairbanks is to bring local foods to people in the community, she said. Adasiak said subsistence living is really important to many Alaskan communities, and she wants to make sure that is still an option for people.
You can learn more about AYEA and get connected to the local chapter at AYEA.org.