Justice40 Initiative regional tour visits Alaska

Published: Aug. 17, 2023 at 11:05 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - “Ecological grief, the loss of our environment, our lands and waters, clean air, the loss of our foods,” recited Vi Waghiyi, Environmental Health and Justice Program Director for Alaska Community Action on Toxics.

These are a few of the topics being discussed during a three day conference at Raven Landing in Fairbanks, Alaska. The organization sponsoring this event is WE ACT for Environmental Justice. This event is also hosted by the Alaska Community Action on Toxins and Native Movement for the Justice40 Initiative regional tour which ends on August 17th.

The initiative was born out of Executive Order 14008 under President Biden. This order aims to help communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution. With many topics to cover in a three day agenda, such as environmental justice and public health, it all comes down to people and their livelihoods.

Enei Begaye, the Native Movement Director adds that pollution and other resource extraction has added to the hardship for local Alaskans who depend on the land. “Salmon fishing for subsistence purposes are being limited and that’s causing pain and grief and food scarcity for communities on the outskirts of Fairbanks,” said Begaye.

While many problems will be shared, community solutions are also key to this regional tour. As most of Alaska is considered the last frontier, it’s also a home to many Indigenous people, and that home is becoming smaller and smaller due to the changing environment.

Gloria Simeon, a Mother Kuskokwim Tribal Coalition member reflects on the bigger issue that pollution causes. “Right now we have villages that are becoming climate refugees. Is Fairbanks prepared to accept? Is Anchorage to accept? Is Bethel? Is Juneau? Is Nome? Prepared to accept and be responsible for people that can no longer live on their homelands and have to find a place to live somewhere else?” said, Simeon.

To wrap up the intensive dialogue between community members and officials, participants will see firsthand the environmental concerns in the city of Fairbanks.

This story has been updated to correct the name of the organization sponsoring the event.