Climate change in the Last Frontier “I will fight until I melt!” BY Samarys Seguinot Medina
Those are the words of respected elder, Annie Alowa, from the Native Village of Savoonga, Sivuqaq, Alaska. Annie’s words referred to bringing environmental health and justice to her people because of exposure to toxic chemicals left behind by the US military from the Cold War era and an array of serious health issues that the communities are facing. But the phrase also expresses the reality of what is happening to her community and so many others right now; we are literally melting in Alaska.
According to the findings of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Alaska is warming faster than any other state in the U.S. Alaska and the Arctic are warming at least twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Research indicates that a wide range of POPs (persistent organic pollutants) have been remobilized into the Arctic atmosphere over the past two decades as a result of climate change, confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals (Ma et al. 2011).
This October the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) Convention, which is the largest representative annual gathering in the United States of any Native peoples, voted to declare a climate change emergency. Global warming is having a significant effect changing weather patterns, jeopardizing food security, threatening ecosystems, property and land, and it’s having a major impact on mental, physical and emotional health. But this is not the end, we can help Mother Earth heal herself and be responsible stewards for the young and the future generations.
The following are suggestions of actions that we can take to move towards climate justice. Conserving energy as part of your daily routine and your decisions as a consumer. Provide your support for climate change and climate friendly initiatives and groups that are working towards climate justice. Make people aware on how climate change harms health. Tell your representatives that transitioning from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy must be a top priority because it’s vital for healthier and safer communities. Stop the use of single use plastics and eliminate unnecessary uses of plastic at home and work. When buying new appliances like refrigerators, washers, and dryers, look for products with the Energy Star label; they meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements. When buying a car, look for one with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions. You can also reduce your emissions by taking public transportation, bicycling, walking or carpooling when possible.
Dr. Samarys Seguinot Medina is the Environmental Health Program Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). ACAT is an environmental health and justice non-profit based in Anchorage, Alaska. Its mission: We believe everyone has the right to clean air, clean water, and toxic-free food. Driven by a core belief in environmental justice, ACAT empowers communities to eliminate exposure to toxics through collaborative research, shared science, education, organizing, and advocacy.
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