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Alaska's next generation focuses on climate change as US takes Arctic Council chair

  • Author:
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published March 23, 2015

In Gov. Bill Walker's State of the State address last month, he announced that a Cabinet position has been established to address Arctic issues. He appointed Craig Fleener, previously a permanent member of the Arctic Council, to this post. Walker stated that "Craig will be a vigorous advocate for Alaska's interests as the council addresses Arctic transportation and navigation, tribal issues, climate change, telecommunications and public/private partnerships for Arctic development."

I am encouraged that Walker has established this position and hope that a citizen's council can also be created. I believe this will get more people involved and help get more constructive and relevant information to those who can change the law.

This position comes at a key time, for the next two years, the United States will chair the Arctic Council, which the U.S. would not be a part of without Alaska. The majority of the Arctic Council meetings will be held in our great state, which I hope focuses the group's attention on issues relevant to Alaska. Our position as part of this council has the strong potential to influence the future of our state. Alaskans of all ages, from across the state, should embrace this opportunity to determine our Arctic future. In order to preserve our culture and economy, we'll need to adapt and innovate to find solutions, lessen damage, and prepare to embrace the changing Arctic.

As a born and raised Alaskan with fewer than 16 years in the Interior, I've already seen the early impacts of climate change on my region. I believe that if we do not wake up and focus on what is coming at Alaska with climate change, soon it will be too late to change our future. Alaskans are not just residents of this state, we are citizens of the international Arctic.

A citizens' council then, would create the space for Alaskans from all walks of life to address climate change. This council could revisit and review the findings from the Alaska Climate Change Sub-Cabinet that was established under Gov. Sarah Palin, and killed under Gov. Sean Parnell. This group developed several extensive reports, and this information can be used moving forward with this council.

My hope is that the people of Alaska, especially young people, look at climate change as a serious issue and consider participating in this citizens' council. I believe this council could be very productive and have a positive impact on Arctic environmental policies that are passed by the Legislature. I believe it would be good for the governor to have a council that could help him understand in full context the environmental issues climate change is bringing to Alaska.

Halbe Brown is a high school junior at Tri-Valley School in Healy and a Youth Organizer with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a youth-led program with members across the state.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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