Sitka, Alaska moves community members to create a resilient energy future

This guest post was written by Ray Friedlander at the Sitka Conservation Society.

Alaska’s identity has been drilled into oil, and with the recent passage of Senate Bill 21 or the “Oil Wealth Giveaway Bill,” the state plans to subsidize this identity through billion dollar tax breaks to the world’s most profitable corporations at a huge financial loss to the climate, the state, and its citizens over the next several years.
 
Despite this statewide decision, the costal Alaskan town of Sitka has been approaching its energy needs differently. Sitka is committed to resiliency, the ability to bounce back or rise from the ashes of challenge regardless of what that challenge may be. With climate change being the most urgent challenge of the century, the city of Sitka recognizes that having multiple ways to meet our energy needs makes us and the Earth more resilient.
 
 
For the climate change movement to be resilient, educational opportunities and public awareness are necessary parts. The Sitka Conservation Society, the local environmental non-profit in Sitka, hosted a showing of 350.org’s “Do the Math.” Showing this national film got 22 community members together to relate the impacts of local level issues like Senate Bill 21 to climate change and discuss how the community could contribute solutions to the world’s most urgent challenge rather than continue to look past it.
 
The showing of “Do the Math” came right after a statewide protest against Senate Bill 21. About 75 people, including the mayor of the City and Borough of Sitka, demonstrated that there are other ways to approach the state’s energy needs that wouldn’t require subsidizing the most profitable corporations in the world at the expense of public infrastructure and the climate.
 
“The Senators that voted for passage of SB21 are gambling with our future. They are willing to forever adversely impact our children, citizens that are in need of health care, crimes that need to be solved, and so many other facets of daily lives in every community around the state. And this is coming at a time when our community is staggering from the blows of the federal sequestration. We need help now, not tomorrow,” said Mayor
McConnell at the rally.
 
That “help now” can start from your very community. Sitka is not waiting for the larger federal government or corporations to catch up to sustainable energy practices—we are making case studies for climate change activism and low cost renewable energy. We are rallying 75 strong to protest bills like the Oil Tax Giveaway. We are hosting films like “Do the Math” to generate conversational energy about what our town can do in the climate change movement–all of this from a rural town of 8 to 9,000 people. When applied to energy needs, resiliency reminds us not to just focus on unearthing fossil fuel energy but see it as one of many options needed to live responsibly. Sitka is working towards an identity independent of oil, an identity of resiliency that rises from the ashes of fossil fuel dependency rather than continue to use those very ashes as our only power source.

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