Alaska teens call for stricter control on climate change
Alaska is on the frontlines of climate change, and a group of teens is leading the charge. Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) is petitioning the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for concrete action on climate change. The more than one 100 page document calls for a regular inventory of greenhouse gas emissions in the state, and a reduction of those pollutants.
"Our state, Alaska, is melting two times faster than any state in the Lower 48," said Sofia Astaburuaga, a senior from Anchorage, to members of the media Monday. "We are losing our heritage, our background and our culture. And this is not okay."
Astaburuaga says AYEA has tried for years to get the attention of Alaska leaders, but they aren't listening.
"We have met with our local representatives and a few of us have had bad encounters where it was like, 'Oh you sweet thing, one day you'll understand politics. One day you'll understand what we're doing'. And we are at that level," Astaburuaga said. "I think we're at another level where we're understanding the consequences that we're going to receive when they're dead."
Someone in the right position was listening Monday. DEC's commissioner, Larry Hartig, invited the teens to meet with him on the topic. He agrees the state needs to do a better job of communicating what it's doing on climate change.
"I certainly hope that this generation will keep that fire in them," Hartig told the group. "And that what we leave you will be something that we can be proud of."
Hartig says most of Alaska's greenhouse gas emissions come from the oil industry -- so they're hard to cut back.
"There's not that many options that they have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions unless you talk about reducing the industry itself, which is something that would be unpopular in Alaska," Hartig said.
The road to change may be bumpy. But members of AYEA are determined to get there -- because it's their Alaska at stake.
"I'm feeling a lot better about where we're going, and I feel like we did take the right step," Astaburuaga said after meeting with Hartig Monday.