November 8, 2019
By Larry Checco
The U.S. National Park Service markers show that in the 1940s and 1950s, about the time I was born, a glacier — Exit Glacier, just outside of Seward, Alaska — covered almost an entire valley in hundreds of feet, and megatons of ice and snow.
Today, Exit is melting at the rate of one-foot-per-day and receding back into the Harding Icefield from whence it came …millennia ago.
If you think that climate change is a hoax, then I suggest you visit Alaska.
My wife Laurie and I did recently and were in awe of the variety of its wildlife, the grandeur and majesty of its mountains and landscapes, the diversity and friendliness of its indigenous and transplanted inhabitants.
And we were greatly saddened by the dangers they all face.
Fact is, 2019 has been the driest and hottest year in Alaska’s recorded history. Anchorage, where half the state’s nearly 700,000 people reside, recorded a record-breaking 90 degrees F this past July 4th holiday.
Two-and-a-half times larger than the State of Texas, Alaska encompasses some three million lakes, 3,000 rivers, 1,800 islands, and 100,000 glaciers. You’ve got to experience it to believe it. And best to do it sooner rather than later.
It seems everything in Alaska is being affected by global warming— glaciers, vegetation, fisheries, wildlife, as well as native inhabitants who are fearful of losing their subsistence way of life, which they so cherish.
The heat and dryness accounted for more than 150 forest fires throughout the state during our two-week visit. One fire crossed the only road from Homer to Anchorage and forced our tour bus to follow an official pilot car through the smoke and small flame breakouts.
Alaska’s permafrost is thawing, which is buckling its roads (and Alaska doesn’t have many) and sinking some of its villages, making them uninhabitable.
Our tour of Denali was cut short because a rockslide the previous day took out some of the road.
None of this put us in any real danger, but they were real-life demonstrations of the force and influence of Mother Nature. And maybe, just maybe, we humans have something to do with it.
We saw in the wild, and from the safety of our tour bus, plenty of brown (grizzly) and black bears, moose, elk, caribou, big-horned sheep and more, and were told by our guide that many of their migration patterns have changed because of the increase in temperature.
We did not get to Alaska’s Arctic Circle region, where polar bears struggle to survive, but we were informed that polar bear specialists almost unanimously agree that predicted declines in summer sea ice due to rising CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use are now the biggest threat to polar bears.
Yet, in addition to rolling back some of our most important environmental regulations–including those related to clear air and clean water–the Trump Administration recently opened Alaska’s remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, ending more than four decades of heated debate on the matter, and placing a large swath of Alaska’s pristine landscape at risk.
Some species live and learn, meaning they adapt to changing environments so as to live another day. Other species just live. I fear we homo sapiens fall into the latter category.
But there may be hope for us yet. Our trip to Alaska also exposed my wife and me to the wisdom of those who came before.
Ten Universal Values
The following Ten Universal Values are from the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, which includes Aleuts, Athabascans, Cup’ik, Tlingits, and several other Alaskan native tribes.
I think these principles are worth incorporating into our techno-driven, often mind-numbing lives:Show respect to others: Each person has a special gift.
- Share what you have: Giving makes you richer.
- Know who you are: You are a reflection of your family.
- Accept what life brings: You cannot control many things.
- Have patience: Some things cannot be rushed.
- Live carefully: What you do will come back to you.
- Take care of others: You cannot live without them.
- Honor your elders: They show you the way in life.
- Pray for guidance: Many things are not known.
- See connections: All things are related.
If we can bring find the ways for ourselves to abide by these values there still may be time to turn things around. Let’s hope so.
There is no Planet B.
Contents Copyright © 2019 by Larry Checco – All Rights Reserved