Tribal health conference highlights Alaska climate change
Alaska has often been described as being on the front lines of climate change. With many villages facing erosion, flooding and permafrost degradation, the land where Alaska's first people have lived for thousands of years is drastically changing.
It's the key point of discussion this week at the Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management. The annual Anchorage event, hosted by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and now in its 24th year, brings together tribes, non-profits, state and federal organizations on environmental issues.
"It's an opportunity for communities to come together and network, and learn from each other -- hear about each other's challenges and look for innovative solutions," Desirae Roehl, one of ANTHC's event coordinators, said Tuesday.
One of the big areas of concern is food security. As the climate changes, how rural Alaskans store and prepare food will have to change too.
"Most specifically, the one I can think of is ice cellars," said the consortium's A.J. Salkoski. "Up north, as the permafrost is melting, we want to make sure that food is being stored safely so that when we consume it, we're not getting sick."
The conference also includes sessions on solid waste, air quality, water and public infrastructure. ANTHC will also be awarding a lifetime achievement award and honoring an up-and-coming environmentalist.
"This is a good way for people who are working in isolated communities to share their stories and best practices, so that people aren't kind of working in silos," Salkoski said. "We can spread the information that's being gathered to try to help as many people as possible."
As Alaska's communities continue to advance the dialogue on innovative ways to preserve traditional lifestyle while adapting to a new environment, ANTHC has been mapping climate change data across the state.
"I hope that what they take away is that a lot of people are experiencing similar challenges, and with new technologies and working together that we could find some really great solutions to help communities adapt and in a sustainable way," Roehl said.
An agenda for the conference is posted on the consortium's website.
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