An Alaskan Summer

This summer I was the Arctic/Renewable Energy Intern at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center located in Fairbanks, Alaska. The Northern Alaska Environmental Center is a grassroots environmental organization that “promotes conservation of the environment and sustainable resource stewardship in Interior and Arctic Alaska through education and advocacy.”  I’ve spent my internship learning, listening, occasionally dressing up in a polar bear mascot…All in all, the internship experience has been a great addition to the BCEP program.

The coursework required during the first year at BCEP was extremely helpful in preparing me for work at the Northern Alaska Environmental Center. For example, one of my principle activities was to create a climate change website for the center’s webpage. I relied on the topics we covered during the fall and spring semesters of both the climate science and science of ecosystems and agriculture classes to put together a comprehensive and relevant web plan. From there, most of the work I completed at the Northern Center required online searches (I often used our library resources to find appropriate journal sources). Our BCEP reinforced what sources would qualify as credible references. With the materials I collected I pulled out key, useful information and translated it into information that the general public would understand.

I spent the summer making CMAPs and searching Bard’s library journal database to do research for the webpage. I even contacted professors Gidon Eshel and Ed Mathez with questions regarding the Pacific Decadal Oscillation – to which they both provided guidance! The continued connection to campus was a great support throughout the summer. The writing process to complete a website was a useful exercise to restate the information we learned this semester in a way that people of all ages and abilities would understand. The process made me consider how climate change is communicated to the public.

The experience working at a grassroots organization has been an informative experience. Before this internship experience I had a different idea of what a nonprofit, grassroots organization was like. This internship was useful in countering my previous perceptions, and giving me a more clear idea of what grassroots advocacy is about. The dedicated staff at the center worked tirelessly to keep up to date on all threats to wildlands and wild places in their focus region (Interior and Arctic Alaska). Should a threat arise, strategy was called for and developed, and the plan unfurled from there. Their work of the center’s staff had to be immediate and well-developed. It also often had to engage and motivate the public to action, whether through generating public comments, signatures, testimonies, and in some cases, votes.

One current example of Northern Center response regarded the recently released Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Required every fifteen years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepares the review. The Northern Center is working in conjunction with others to generate support for increased wilderness designation in the Coastal Plain and in the ANWR at large. Written comments may be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at arcticrefugeccp@fws.gov.

Organizations like the Northern Alaska Environmental do amazing work; they daily fight against resource development projects that threaten both a sustainable Alaska as well as natural and cultural places of significance. They are truly the ‘watch dogs’ of our society.

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