Humanitarian Crisis in Alaska

Alaska is a land of many resources. Beyond its beauty, Alaska provides many resources for the US and the people who reside in the state. Many Alaskans would argue that Alaska is a culture of its own-- far different from anywhere in the lower-forty-eight. Maintaining a subsistence lifestyle, most Alaskans heavily rely on the land and the resources it supplies. Hunting and fishing are main food sources, but a balanced diet is necessary for everybody. Foods such as fresh produce, bread products, and other household staples are typically brought into small communities via ferry; however, the declining oil revenue Alaska has been bringing in has forced several budget cuts upon the state government. One of these cuts has been the ferry system.

Striving for Renewability

In today’s day and age, renewable forms of energy are becoming more and more prominent as science continues to show that our current forms of energy are neither sustainable financially nor environmentally. Despite this, Alaska has not hesitated its oil production. For many Alaskans, their livelihoods reside on the oil-rich North Slope of Alaska. The oil industry is an important one for Alaskan residents, bringing in revenue for the state as well as individual households. No matter where you stand politically, cutting back so severely on oil exports has had negative effects on people across the state.

Why the Ferry System?

The Alaska Marine Highway System has been in operation since 1948. Serving communities from Valdez, Alaska, to Bellingham, Washington, the ferry system is a source of transportation relied upon by many Alaskans. Although important, the ferry system is an expensive one to run and maintain. With the severe cuts to the oil revenue, cuts were necessary to many areas of Alaskan government run entities. The University of Alaska notably took a hit from Governor Dunleavy’s cuts. Although outraging many, several Alaskans see these cuts justifiable after the 2018 un-accreditation of UAF’s school of education. Yet people can’t seem to find a reason as to why the governor would cut such an essential service to many Alaskan communities.

How Are People Coping?

Not well, to say the least. Small Southeast Alaskan communities have appeared to take the largest hit. The villages of Kake and Angoon have been at the forefront of this story as quality of life is slowly slipping away as everyday without a ferry passes by. Ferries have historically been used to deliver groceries to local stores, deliver fish to their proper markets, access medical services, and help schools travel to other islands. WIthout ferries coming into Kake or Angoon, grocery stores have greatly depleted since the shutdown of the ferry system. Communities such as Petersburg, Alaska, have come together to rally for Kake and Angoon. This past weekend, $10,000 is goods such as fresh produce, non-perishables, household supplies and more were delivered via a fishing tender to the small villages. Despite the coming together of Southeast Alaska as a greater community, change needs to be made in the Capitol in order to return to a sustainable lifestyle for all Alaskans.

Despite the craziness across the globe with the outbreak of COVID-19, there are other problems we face domestically that can’t be overlooked. Although it is often forgotten, Alaska is part of the United States and deserves support from across the nation. Some may say that checks and balances have failed in the state of Alaska, so what responsibility does that place on people of this nation? Alaska is in a humanitarian crisis and as a nation, we should be aware of this.