With the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), we saw steps forward on climate and clean energy but also steps backward, burdened with expanded oil & gas leasing and fast-tracked mining in Alaska. Linking clean energy development to decades of continued fossil fuel development impedes our goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but it can still be achieved through solution-orientated mass organizing, education, and community care. We need to lean in and shape the future we yearn for.
Together, we will lead the just transition to a clean energy future for Alaska, but our strategies must be shaped through an environmental justice lens, or our clean energy future will be carried on the backs of frontline communities. Expanded mining development in Alaska will not materialize in the backyards of the wealthy but in the backyards of those who the “Last Frontier” has already disparaged. Income-insecure communities are the lowest carbon-emitting, yet they suffer the worst and most frequent impacts from the climate crisis. This must change if we truly want an Alaska Just Transition.
It has been said that we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. In the future we envision, we abandon our individualistic tendencies and move to collectivism through community care. There is no success in driving an electric vehicle if the resources required to operate it are mined irresponsibly on the lands of marginalized communities and at the expense of salmon landscapes. As the inspirational Adrienne Marie Brown said, “What does it look like to imagine beyond the constructs? What does it look like to imagine a future where we all get to be there, not causing harm to each other, and experiencing abundance?”
Change is coming, and we do not have to fall victim to it. To compete with the deluge of Outside money pouring into the state to expand extraction and reap excessive profits, we must organize to build power within our communities. This is beyond electoral politics—real change starts with us. We are up against massive corporate-fueled propaganda campaigns, and to compete, we need community-driven solutions generated by people having hard conversations based on trust and shared values. We must accept that we might not see the fruits of our labor within our lifetimes, but we must be ok with letting go of that for a livable future for generations to come.
So while the IRA is not a quick fix for the climate crisis, it is progress toward the future that we all must have a hand in creating. In any system, everything is interconnected. These bonds will light the way for strong communities to thrive through local participation and dispel special interest rhetoric telling us we cannot afford to change. We will look towards nature as a teacher as we are all natural. This future must be equitable for all peoples, animals, lands, and waters living within the watershed. We must concentrate on all parts of the system that create this place we call home and coexist and collaborate within them. We need everyone together to build this future, and we need community care networks to support each other during this journey. Our future will be funded by the fruits of our labor.
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