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Alaskan Youth Demand Solutions to Global Warming

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This week, a delegation of Alaska youth brought a “Letter to Our Leaders on Global Warming” with 5,000 signatures from Alaska high school students to Washington, D.C. to demand action on global warming. The effort, with signatures from teens in more than 100 communities, was spearheaded by Alaska Youth for Environmental Action.


Representing Alaska Native villages and urban communities, the teen delegation met with several members of Congress, including Alaska’s delegation and other House and Senate lawmakers, to highlight the dramatic impacts global warming is having on Alaska’s economy, natural resources, and cultures. The teens are calling on Congress to pass legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides incentives for renewable energy.


“We see global warming happening in Alaska, and we want our leaders to know that if they don’t do something today, my generation will pay for it tomorrow,” said Verner Wilson, a Yup’ik Alaska Native from Dillingham, who drafted the petition. “I started this petition to ask our leaders to help protect this place that Alaska youth have inherited, and to protect our lifestyles and cultures. Alaskan communities like Shishmaref are sinking, and invasive species are affecting the environment that Alaskans have depended upon for thousands of years.”


Since January 2006, teens in the AYEA program have traveled the state, presenting on global warming and teaching students what they can do to reduce their carbon emissions. Community interest in the effort has been overwhelming—the teens have presented in over two hundred and fifty classrooms.


Charlee Lockwood, a young woman from the village of St. Michael on the northwest coast of Alaska, is one of many Alaska Native youth concerned about the impacts of global warming on subsistence and Native culture. “Because so many youth from so many villages have signed this petition, I really feel like I am helping others. By speaking to other youth about global warming, I have given other people the courage to speak up.”


“Global warming is here and now. Alaska is among the most impacted regions in the world, facing temperature increases at least four times greater than the world average according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment,” said Anchorage student Tim Treuer, a member of the youth delegation who has collected several hundred signatures.


“Alaska’s three biggest industries--oil and gas, tourism and fishing—are already being hurt by rising temperatures,” states Justin Hurst, a graduate of Dimond High School who has worked at the Anchorage Convention and Visitors Bureau for the past few summers. “Today, tourists have to take a boat to the Portage Glacier,” because of its dramatic recession.


The teens raised funds to purchase “green tags” to offset the carbon emissions created by their flights to Washington. Fellow Alaskan teens also presented the petition to leaders in Juneau and Anchorage this week, requesting local initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) is a high school leadership program of the National Wildlife Federation, founded by six teenagers in 1998.


Contact: Polly Carr (907) 229-9830 or Christine Dorsey (703) 470-6689

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