In the vast expanse of Alaska, a significant portion of the population belongs to Indigenous communities, each with unique cultures deeply rooted in the fertile land. However, this idyllic setting is under threat from various challenges, including climate change, which is hitting Alaska at an alarming rate. Meet two inspiring young Indigenous activists, Brittany Woods-Orrison and Rodney Evans, who are at the forefront of the battle against global warming in this region.
Brittany Woods-Orrison: Bridging the Digital Divide in the Arctic Wilderness
Brittany Woods-Orrison, a broadband specialist for Alaska Public Interest Research Group, is on a mission to bring digital equity to her home village, Dleł Taaneets (Rampart). Growing up without internet access, Brittany understands the importance of connectivity in the remote areas of Alaska. Her advocacy focuses on affordable internet access for all, addressing the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in the most isolated rural areas.
Rodney Evans: Capturing Climate Crisis through Indigenous Storytelling
Rodney Evans, a filmmaker, photographer, and Indigenous activist of Koyukon Dené, Inupiaq, and Gwich’in descent, hails from Rampart, a small community feeling the stark effects of the climate crisis. Alaska, warming at twice the rate of the rest of the country, is witnessing the rapid disappearance of glaciers and melting permafrost. Rodney uses his art to capture these changes, emphasizing Indigenous storytelling as a tool for preserving culture and addressing the climate crisis.
A Shared Heritage, A Collective Fight
Both activists are deeply connected to their roots in Dleł Taaneets, a subsistence-based community surrounded by mountains and dense boreal forests. However, the once pristine landscape is transforming rapidly due to climate change. Alaska, home to 40% of America’s federally recognized tribes, is a frontline battleground for the impacts of global warming.
Challenges and Triumphs: Navigating a Changing Landscape
For Rodney and Brittany, the climate crisis isn’t just a distant threat—it’s a daily reality. Subsistence fishing, a crucial aspect of Alaska Native culture, has been disrupted due to the decline in fish populations caused by warming waters. Additionally, the melting permafrost, a visible sign of climate change, has become a personal experience for Rodney, as he witnessed landscapes altered by its effects.
Remembering Forward: Rodney Evans’ Vision for Indigenous Solutions
Rodney Evans embraces the concept of "remembering forward," championed by the Alaska Just Transition Collective. This approach seeks solutions rooted in Indigenous cultures’ traditional practices, emphasizing land stewardship, sustainability, and social equity. Rodney uses film and storytelling to highlight these original traditions, aiming to pave the way for more mindful, equitable, and healthy communities.
Bridging the Digital Gap: Brittany Woods-Orrison’s Vision
Brittany’s work as a broadband specialist is integral to addressing digital inequity in Alaska. With Alaska ranking at the bottom in terms of internet access, Brittany advocates for affordable, fast internet as a means to reconnect Alaska Natives with their culture. Her vision extends beyond mere connectivity; she dreams of diversifying Alaska’s economy and fostering an equitable regenerative economy based on Indigenous principles.
Upholding Indigenous Values in the Face of Global Challenges
Both activists stress the importance of Indigenous values in combating the challenges posed by global warming. They emphasize the need to protect the land and preserve cultural practices that sustained their communities for millennia before the impact of colonialism.
The Road Ahead: A Collective Effort for a Sustainable Future
As Alaska faces the intensifying impacts of climate change, Brittany Woods-Orrison and Rodney Evans stand as beacons of resilience and activism. Their work not only addresses immediate challenges but also contributes to a collective effort for a sustainable and equitable future for Alaska’s Indigenous communities.
Meet Two Young Indigenous Activists in Alaska Working at the Frontlines of Global Warming. The battle is not theirs alone—it’s a fight for the land, the culture, and the future of Alaska’s Indigenous peoples.
Climate Advocacy and Indigenous Perspectives: Insights from Alaska’s Young Activists
How has the climate influenced Alaska Natives lifestyle?
The climate in Alaska has significantly shaped the lifestyle of its Indigenous peoples. The compounding effects of inadequate infrastructure, loss of access to traditional foods, food insecurity, the threat of community relocation, and impacts on water quality and quantity, coupled with poverty, pose an immediate threat to the mental health of the region’s 271 federally recognized tribes. These challenges highlight the intricate link between climate change and the well-being of Alaska Natives, impacting everything from access to essential resources to the very fabric of their cultural identity.
How is global warming affecting Alaska?
Global warming is taking a toll on Alaska, manifesting in the thawing of permafrost, reduction in Arctic sea ice, and shifts in ecosystems, posing a direct threat to the traditional livelihoods of native Alaskans. By the end of this century, widespread permafrost thaw is anticipated, heightening the risk of significant infrastructure damage. The consequences of global warming in Alaska are not just environmental but also deeply intertwined with the socio-economic fabric of the indigenous communities.
How people Alaska are adapting to climate change?
In response to the challenges posed by climate change in Alaska, the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, AK, provides guidance to businesses and residents, recommending avoidance of building on permafrost. Their adaptive approach includes designing homes with adjustable foundation piers, offering a flexible solution to address deteriorating permafrost conditions. This innovative strategy showcases a proactive effort to navigate the impacts of climate change and build resilient structures that can withstand the evolving environmental conditions.
Will global warming help Alaska?
The increasing temperatures in Alaska may offer certain advantages, including an extended growing season for agricultural crops, a boost in tourism, and enhanced access to natural resources currently hindered by ice cover, such as offshore oil. While these potential benefits exist, it’s essential to consider the broader context of environmental impact and the challenges that come with adapting to a changing climate.
What influences the climate in Alaska?
The climate patterns in Alaska are shaped by key factors, namely latitude, continentality, and elevation. The high latitude plays a pivotal role in determining the seasonal distribution of solar radiation. The Arctic region experiences reduced solar warmth during winter and ample sunlight during the summer, contributing to the distinctive climate patterns observed in Alaska.
Why is Alaska warming faster?
Alaska’s accelerated warming can be attributed to several influential factors, including its proximity to oceans and sea ice, high-latitude positioning on Earth, significant mountain ranges and elevation, and the continentality experienced in Interior Alaska. The Arctic, particularly affected by climate change, is undergoing warming at a rate approximately three times faster than the global average. These combined elements contribute to the heightened pace of climate change in Alaska.