Past Youth Campaigns
In previous years, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action has taken action on a range of issues including toxics and pesticides, climate change, energy efficiency, plastics, renewable energy, wild salmon, local food, Pebble Mine and more! Here are some highlights from past campaigns:
In 2014 at the Fall Youth Organizing Summit, young people from across the state decided to run a campaign on climate change in Alaska. The teens chose to focus on climate change for a strategic reason; they knew that as young people they could revive the dialogue on climate change in the state as we are the most authentic and effective messengers on this topic. AYEA could pave the way for other groups, individuals, and elected leaders to join the conversation. Over the course of the past 2 years AYEA has accomplished the goal of elevating the issue and achieved key victories along the way.
During the 2014/15 school year, AYEA teens brought the topic to the local school level by asking teachers to educate youth about energy and climate issues in K-12 schools by sharing the EnergySmart curriculum. They also talked to their peers, friends and family about their climate change petition, gathering over 1,200 signatures in support of convening a Climate Change Task Force in the new Governor’s administration.
In Juneau for the 2015 Civics and Conservation Summit, teens directly asked the Governor what he would do about climate change, and if he would reconvene a Climate Change Task Force to figure out mitigation and adaptation strategies. The Governor was open to the idea, but has not yet committed to putting the Task Force together.
During the summer of 2015, AYEA learned that President Obama was visiting the state to attend the kick off event of the Arctic Council meetings. In the wake of that knowledge, 2 alumni and a current teen member stepped up to become Arctic Youth Ambassadors and represent youth voice and opinions as dignitaries, ambassadors, and officials discussed the future of the Arctic. Their primary focus was to talk about climate change and influence decision makers to take action on the changes occurring in our Arctic regions. In November 6 other AYEA alumni and members joined the Arctic Youth Ambassador program to advocate for climate action on the international level.
In Fall of 2015 AYEA once again gathered to plan a new campaign at the Youth Organizing Summit. They decided to help support the President’s Clean Power Plan for the nation, and encourage Alaska to follow the initiative by reducing carbon emissions 30% by 2030. Key to reducing carbon emissions would be to set up positions in the Governor’s administration to determine the best way to do so. The teens worked to host community events on climate, collect over 1,300 more petitions in support of emissions reduction, signed on a youth plaintiff to a federal lawsuit to urge action on climate, and one youth organizer even traveled all the way to Paris for COP21. In addition teens wrote letters to the editor and op-ed pieces, spoke to the governor over phone, met with various state legislators, and used social media to spread articles and education about climate change.
At the Civics and Conservation Summit in March 2016, teens culminated their campaign work with a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallot. The Lieutenant Governor spoke with the teens about his own political journey and ideas, but most importantly alluded that the Governor’s administration would soon be announcing an important update about their work on climate change. Four teens also recently flew to Washington DC to lobby on climate change and other important environmental issues with members of Congress and other federal leaders.
Right now AYEA is looking forward to the Governor’s announcement. The teens are hopeful that their hard work and dedication to advancing the dialogue on climate in Alaska will result in concrete progress.
In the fall of 2013, 17 Youth Organizers came together in Palmer from across the state to commit to a campaign to stop Pebble Mine. After a flurry of power mapping, messaging workshops, and tactics trainings, they identified their campaign goal and target decision maker: moving Senator Mark Begich to publicly oppose the Mine. Over the next few months, the youth designed and collected over 300 postcards for Senator Begich. Their petition postcards represented over 10% of the total 2800 anti-Pebble comments he referred to in a recent Anchorage Daily News interview where he declared Pebble to be the, “wrong mine, wrong place.”
Recognizing that they had only won the first battle, AYEA teens quickly pivoted to target EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to use her power to initiate the 404(c) provision of the Clean Water Act to protect Bristol Bay from the mine. Only weeks after AYEA Organizers focused their efforts on pressuring Administrator McCarthy to start the 404(c) process, they learned the EPA would move forward with this course of action! The 2013-14 campaign to target strategic decision makers to publicly oppose the Pebble Mine proved timely, effective, and unprecedented as a learning opportunity for teens’ organizing skills and change-making. Check out photos from the 2013-14 Campaign here.
AYEA Youth Organizers created a printed booklet “Recipes for Alaska’s Food Future”. It features recipes using local and wild Alaskan ingredients as well as stories and art that highlight Alaskan teens’ regional and cultural connections to local food. In our state where local food resources are defined not only by agricultural resources, but also by wild, subsistence resources, AYEA seeks to educate and advocate for local food resources in Alaska. Click here to order your copy of AYEA’s “Recipes for Alaska’s Food Future!”
Wild Salmon Campaign Recognizing the importance our sustainable Wild Fisheries play in Alaska’s economy, as well as the major health and cultural benefits they provide us, AYEA teens knew we needed to speak up and spread awareness about the threats to salmon, like Pebble Mine. Teens wrote a Resolution to Protect Wild Salmon, created a petition collecting over 1,500 signatures, and ended the campaign with a trip to D.C. to present our work to Murkowski, Begich and Young. Click here to read more
Renewable Energy Campaign. AYEA teens were inspired to take action for renewable energy in our state. The governor had pledged to devote $50 million towards a Renewable Energy Fund, but then she was backing out. AYEA teens wrote a petition and gathered signatures from people in over 60 communities across Alaska. This campaign raised awareness about the need for renewable energy as part of the solution to climate change in Alaska. At AYEA’s annual Civics & Conservation Summit in Juneau, teens met with Special Assistant to the Governor, Mr Balash, and convinced him to sign AYEA’s petition, supporting $50 million appropriations by the state of Alaska towards renewable energy development as well as a federal renewable energy electricity standard. We celebrated when the budget was approved with $25 appropriated to the Renewable Energy Fund, less than we’d hoped for, but still a significant investment. Click here to read more and even more here.
R3: Rethink Plastics! – Reduce, reuse, and recycle: these three words have historically guided Americans in their efforts to minimize waste. As global warming threatens our way of life, landfill space becomes decreasingly available, and consumption reaches an all-time high, AYEA members add a fourth “R” to the mix: rethink. AYEA teens launched the Re3: Rethink Plastics! project to inform individuals about the impacts of plastics on our health and environment, and to educate consumers about alternatives to disposable plastics. Their efforts culminated with the youth-created Week Without Plastics April 20-27, 2008.
3-2-1 Efficiency – After AYEA’s “Letter to our Leaders” campaign in 2005, our youth wanted to address global warming solutions. AYEA teens created and launched the “3-2-1 Efficiency” campaign in the fall of 2006, motivating over 3,500 Alaskan youth and their families to sign a pledge reducing household emissions contributing to global warming. The pledge asks an individual to: replace 3 incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, turn their thermostat down 2 degrees in the winter, and unplug 1 household appliance when not in use. They calculated the pounds of carbon offset by households implementing the pledge. In the spring of 2007, Senator Lisa Murkowski hosted AYEA member Megan Waggoner on the Alaska Report TV show, commending the youth for the campaign and taking the pledge herself. She has been joined by Senator Ted Stevens and Governor Sarah Palin in signing the pledge.
Global Warming Letter to Our Leaders – In the summer of 2005, AYEA teens gathered to learn more about global warming impacts and issues. One teen (Verner Wilson, of Dillingham) wrote a “Letter to our Leaders” demanding our elected leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote renewable energy projects. His peers later turned this letter into a youth petition, and traveled the state engaging over 8,000 other young Alaskans on global warming. In the end, 5,000 youth from 150 villages and cities signed the petition, and a group of AYEA teen leaders brought these petitions to Congress, meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski. Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich was the first Alaskan mayor to sign the U.S. Mayor’s Climate Change Agreement and credited AYEA and youth action as a motivation.
Tackling Toxics- One of the first issues tackled by AYEA youth was a Pesticides “Right to Know” campaign. Anchorage youth learned about the toxic chemical carbaryl being sprayed in and around school grounds–without parental permission or notification to students or staff. Pesticides pose a high risk to adolescents because they disrupt normal hormone development. AYEA collaborated with Alaska Community Action on Toxics to educate students, parents, health officials and school board members about the use of pesticides in the Anchorage School District, and in 2000 they were successful in getting the Anchorage School District to create a “Least Toxic Pest Management” policy – at the time it was one of the most progressive policies in the country! This policy mandates the use of non-toxic and least-toxic approaches to removing pests instead of toxic chemicals. In later years, AYEA youth helped promote and pass legislation at the state level requiring the tracking of commercial pesticide application, and helped promote an Anchorage ordinance requiring residents to notify their neighbors when pesticides are to be sprayed. Finally, southeast AYEA members rallied in 2003 to promote a ban of aerial pesticide spraying on subsistence lands in Prince of Wales island and neighboring regions.