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Anchorage welcomes GLACIER conferees to America's Arctic gateway

As Anchorage looks to the future, we have incredible opportunities based on where we are – our location as Alaska's largest city, as the air crossroads of the world and as the gateway to the Arctic. We will achieve success based on who we are – a community that is at once uniquely Alaskan and distinctly global.

As world leaders from Arctic nations arrive in Anchorage for the GLACIER conference, Anchorage will move to an international stage. Our guests will come to understand that we are responsible stewards capable of controlling our own development and our own fate. As hosts, we have the opportunity to reinforce Alaska's case that by right and by merit we should participate in decisions about our future. Consequently, it is important to point to our achievements and aspirations, which demonstrate that the people of Anchorage and Alaska are innovative, resilient and focused on sustainability.

Here, on the northern edge, we are on the cutting edge. While the world visits to discuss climate change and the opening of the Arctic, they can see what Anchorage will do and what we have done. Using innovative technology, we can make Anchorage the most energy efficient city in the country: Efficiency is key to self-sufficiency, and self-sufficiency is essential for independence and self-determination. Alaskans know the value of our natural resources and how the wise use of those resources benefits us all.

Already, Anchorage relies on local resources to fill much of our energy need – gas from Cook Inlet, hydropower from Eklutna, wind from Fire Island, and methane from the landfill – but there is more we can do, and more we will do. We can generate more "nega-watts" and reduce wasteful consumption. We can become a smart city by deploying smart grid technology and information systems. In the process, we will provide better service and protect hard-earned tax dollars.

This week, and for the next two years during the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Alaskans will bring the world to America's Arctic, and bring America's Arctic to the world. We in Anchorage are the gateway for that journey, and we are uniquely qualified for that role. As a global city, more than 100 languages are spoken in our streets and homes. As Alaska's largest village, Anchorage draws on 10,000 years of knowledge from Alaska's Native peoples who have survived and thrived in the Arctic environment.

An opening Arctic inspires commerce, and enhances the connection between Anchorage and rural Alaska. We have witnessed many times and many ways that a healthier, more prosperous rural Alaska means a healthier, more prosperous Anchorage. Because of a more connected, more accessible circumpolar North, we will ship cargo from our port and airport to Bethel, Kotzebue, Barrow, and Deadhorse. We will construct buildings filled with individuals performing jobs working for companies doing business in the Arctic. The president's recent decision on U.S. Arctic offshore development underscores that economic development and environmental stewardship can be and should be concurrent goals.

As the United States assumes Arctic Council leadership, Alaska must lead. This important and historic gathering of circumpolar delegations provides an opportunity. We will host world leaders, including the president of the United States. As mayor, I welcome all who visit our city during the GLACIER conference. Enjoy all that Anchorage has to offer as the gateway to the Arctic and a bridge across the top of the globe. Join with us as we take care of our families, honor our heritages, and remain as stewards of the place that we live.

Ethan Berkowitz was elected mayor of Anchorage in May 2015 and previously served in the Alaska House of Representatives.

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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