Discussion 7 11 comments


Ok, a short question this week, but one that you should spend some time thinking about. We’ve been looking backwards all semester… reading historical accounts of exploration in Alaska. What’s in our future? You can think about this in ecological terms, economic, cultural, or numerous other ways. Explain what you think Alaska will look like in 100 years. Try to talk about this in a way that avoids the pitfall of Apocalyptic thinking. It’s always an option to imagine that there is no future, but that’s an easy way out of this question. Think more about the innovation and cultural developments that might come from this area.

Where are we, as Alaskans, headed?


About Madara Mason

Madara Mason's hats include painter, graphic designer, Instructional Designer, faculty educator, English Instructor, food blogger, and Oxford Comma Aficionado. If she's not in front of an easel, she's in front of a screen, or in front of a classroom. Her motto is "If you're not having fun, you're probably doing it wrong."

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11 thoughts on “Discussion 7

  • LaVon Marie

    I think is quite a fascinating question, because I believe Alaska is really starting to get serious as we confront this question on a daily basis. Progress is fundamental to the overall progress and sustainability of our state in economics, politics and education. In order for us to have a plan and understand how we want to develop fishing, mining, oil production, timber, coal, copper we have to understand where we want to be in twenty, fifty or a hundred years.
    Looking back on where we were just a little over fifty years ago–we weren’t even a state yet. Since that time, we have achieved statehood (quite the feat in itself), built a basic infrastructure (road network —to some of the major cities, railroads, sea ports, airports, hospitals, elementary schools, colleges and government), expanded our economy from the early days of gold mining and fur trade to oil production, gravel. Along with the expansion of the mining we produce and export oil. Our natural resources have not only stopped there, sometimes we forget that Alaska is one of the “world’s greatest producers of wild caught seafood” (State of Alaska, DFD). Although our timber output has been greatly reduced due the protection of the Tungass National Park, we still do have a timber economy. All of these are vital to our economy and each one must be carefully examined so that we can balance the sustainability versus the need for growth in jobs. I am of the mindset that this is where research, development and education can come into play. One of Alaska’s largest problems in our economy is securing brain power. In fact, for a while, our state has experienced a brain drain until we began to look at ways higher education and job preparation could keep young people entering the work force in out state. Since the early 90’s we have already stated to address this problem by expanding higher education that specializes in these areas such as alternative energy, research and development in environmental sciences and engineering. I see Alaska continuing growth in the sustainability of these industries while trying to provide jobs due to the continuing efforts to create new industries as well as broadening our youth’s job force opportunities. As sciences develop new ways for us to extract these resources without the destruction of our environment–there will be far greater ability in the potential growth in sustainability, economy and education… (this is all of course if we are politically wise in funding the rights things such as education). As much as I would like to pretend that most Alaskans are inoculated from global economy, we are not. Yet we have some unique geographical features that are to our advantage (they could be weaknesses as well but I prefer to look on the bright side). I think the weaknesses are also where there is potential growth–such as agriculture and perhaps new types of manufacturing. The potential is endless. Since economics is the engine that drives the need for innovation, job growth and human labor, I also see Alaska expanding in population. Does this worry me? Yes, I will be honest it does.
    The idea that maybe someday there will be cookie cutter subdivisions and (ugh could I dare to hope that it doesn’t exist by then)–Wal-Mart’s past Talkeetna or the same in Glenallen makes me mourn the empty expansive lands that Alaska was in the past. I see that perhaps by then we will have figured out sustainable and economical energy solutions to Bush villages. Found ways to provide those cabins that are scattered across the state indoor plumbing and perhaps even more road structure that is takes into consideration environmental concerns (Hey one can dream here!). However, the idea of that kind of progress seems almost vulgar to me as well. Yet I know eventually it will happen as our state expands. I hope when that times comes, we have recognized the balance between jobs and preservation. I hope that Alaska will still have hundred thousands of acres of land set aside that will remain nothing but wilderness. Somewhere we have to draw the line at urbanization. I don’t know…I see many things in Alaska’s future–mostly lots of expansion–the bad, the ugly but I hope for the good too. I think I will see the same spirit that drove people here 100 years ago–will be the same pioneering spirit that will drive us to think of new ways in how we can live in this state, be economically viable and yet not lose the things that make the identity of Alaska and Alaskans so unique. I guess I see a more populated Alaska…that is flourishing, still in tune with the seasons, still enduring the long dark winters, so that it can live in full glory for those brief but magnificent, endless summer nights. That is the Alaska I see in the future.

  • Aaron

    I’d like to start by pointing out that Alaska has the second highest consumption of fossil fuels per capita in the United States, behind Wyoming. I don’t think we can afford to have any illusions about our energy usage. In terms of global warming, there’s nothing “sustainable” about churning through loads of wood, diesel, and coal in the winter months. From one standpoint, we interact with nature by isolating ourselves from it in the three major population centers, namely Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. Ecologically, one might argue that modern large-scale cities shouldn’t even exist in places where people must burn prodigious amounts of nonrenewable resources just to stay moderately comfortable.
    .
    See article on our energy consumption at:
    https://www.nbcnews.com/business/wyoming-alaska-top-list-states-use-most-energy-1B6053390

    In 100 years, I think its fairly reasonable to predict the state population will have grown some, just like the rest of the country (and the entire world, for that matter). Adventurous people seeking a different lifestyle will continue to move to the Last Frontier. Hopefully they will bring their innovation so we can avoid that much too soon, self-inflicted Apocalyptic scenario nobody wants to think or talk about. Despite growing concern about climate change, humankind is still bent on oil exploration and exploitation. Conditioned by the doom and gloom of environmental scientists, I have a hard time looking at the bright side, because they sometimes make it seem like the world is ending. Although, we should all know better than that. The earth is resilient and can survive, whether or not humans will carry on with it after we exceed our carrying capacity in the future. It’s a bit disillusioning to think about this issue. How can we become sustainable? That’s a question which has yet to be answered.

  • Kari

    Community Ordered Outsider?
    It’s hard to say where Alaskans are heading in the near future. The United States owns 60 percent of Alaska, and two other countries are still invasive about the Alaska boundaries, in which they believe is theirs. Canada and Russia want to dictate their boundaries for resources to adhere their countries benefit. It seems to me that this huge state is being taken advantage of.
    Instead of Alaska owning its own oil, the government has taken a major resource from Alaskans to offer national security, low paying jobs, human resources (military expenditure) to the bigger cities of Alaska. Granted there are government grants that are given to the state, but prices of natural resources are increasing. Alaskans are already having to pay a huge chuck of money for transportation of consumer goods, which is taking money from their pocket book and those of the surrounding community.
    The federal government is pulling back its expenditure in the state of Alaska. The government is pulling down expenditure of human resources. Individuals at the main gate lost their temporary positions as gate handlers to get on Eielson AFB and the commissary is now closed another day on base, making it harder for military families to get what they need. Then there was the United States Post Office wanting to pull the post office location from Eielson AFB and the North Pole. If the Post Office pulls through with the allegation for withdrawal of their services, I can’t image what the families would do to send their care packages to their spouses that are overseas. There is even talk about the F-16’s and military personal being relocated. The last I heard about that was the meeting on February 4, 2013 at the North Pole, to go over the environmental impact statement. Will the BARC process happen for Eielson AFB in the near future, I don’t think anybody knows at this point?
    The government is also with drawling federal grants for scientific research across the United States, what would this mean for the scientific program at the University of Alaska, the existing Alaskan scientist, and the new Alaskan scientist?
    There are billions of dollars in regulation of the Alaskan state but where is the refurnishing, construction for uptake on buildings, and new business’s? I am mostly talking about Fairbanks and the Northern communities, even some down South. If individuals are coming to these communities to even think about staying in this vast countryside, they are in culture shock. I am not going to lie, but I was scared to and even now, to step foot in some of these businesses. I am shocked about the advertising and marketing in this community. I have also notice some individuals have pretty much a monopoly in their area, and that allows them to give poor customer service. I have also observed dealerships selling military youngsters a vehicle that they cannot afford on their salary, and then taking the vehicle back, only to have them pay the contract obligation.
    If I was a tourist and not just stationed here, I would run far from this place, even with the beauty of Alaska’s territory that surrounds us.
    What some communities fail to notice is they need individuals to fill their community, schools, library’s, restaurants, and other service needs. I was basically petrified, but you can’t blame me. I grew up in a pampered society of what I thought to be normal. Coming to this base, a lot of family members were crying to leave. They wanted shopping malls, restaurants that were breath taking, and services that provided an experience to where they wanted to come back.
    I have come across some veterans that chose to stay in Alaska. Of course as curious as I am, with no personal boundaries, I asked. One veteran said that he retired here because he believed the economy was going to crash, and he wanted to be far from the US as he can get. This man shared his concern about if the economy crashed, he wanted to be somewhere where he could survive on his own, and with the resources Alaska had to offer.
    I believe if Alaska was going to excel in the future, it would need to rebuild itself, provide excellent customer service, provide new business, provide new inventions or products, better transportation routes in connecting the communities together, better communication, and the state to reclaim its territory.
    I am not writing this to disrespect Alaskans way of living or shove problems at their doorstep. I am simply, giving my economic view point from an outsider looking in. Since I have discovered the Alaskan way of living, is not about the economic city life, I became at ease. I realized that Alaska is calm and not a fast paced society. I believed with that thought, I could eased my tension a bit from being a city girl. You don’t have to worry about something passing you by, or a briefcase that you carried your life in. I truly believe Alaskans have the potential of living with or without economic reasoning. With this point I am inspired.

  • Patricia

    Alaska is beautiful and I believe it will remain in that way in the next one hundred years. Alaska has different natural resources and some people respect them and others do not. Currently there are many people against the pebble mine and what it entails, which is the contamination of rivers and the environment. Unfortunately, I believe that in the future there is a possibility that companies will be allowed to mine in different areas in Alaska looking for minerals and causing many environmental issues, polluting the air and killing animals etc. In addition, I think that Alaska will no longer have more oil to drill. In an economic way I think that Alaska will be very developed regarding technology and that there will be jobs because companies will invest in Alaska. Population in one hundred years for sure will have increased significantly meaning people cutting more trees, using more natural resources and more land will be used which means that areas with grass, trees etc. will disappear in order to create roads, have more buildings, houses etc. On the other hand, it also means more tourism and more revenues for Alaska. Global warming is a reality and in one hundred years it will have melted glaciers and the ice cap which will be connected with the almost extinction of polar bears. Melting permafrost will affect the climate and Alaska may not reach extreme cold temperatures like minus 40 but just low temperatures possibly above zero or five degrees. In one hundred years more people will have moved to cities and a reduced number of people may still live in rural Alaska due to the high cost of living. All what I have mentioned is a possibility but depends on us, and the state to take care of the Alaskan wilderness and always think of the consequences that any decision may bring. The beautiful mountains, hills, lakes , wonderful scenery will always be the same. Today there is more people thinking about the environment like recycling and that is why I think there is hope for a positive future.

  • Misty

    Alaska in a hundred years…well if nobody bombs the world to pieces before then I think that Alaska will be more independent then it is now. People might be growing there own food by then, so as not to be poisoned by things we don’t even know about. Hopefully by then the cars are more environmental friendly, and people will have better ways to get around. I believe that the villages will always be where they have been. My Nana once asked my Great great Auntie Alta (I called her grandma) how long Anvik had been around, and she replied that it had always been there. Back then it wasn’t exactly a village, but a meeting place. A summers camp. Somebody descended from those people will always live there, it is in there blood. At least this is what I hope. I cannot bear to think of my hometown as a forgotten ghost town. In a hundred years the climate might change. This beautiful wild paradise we live in now may be no more, it may be just cities, like every where else, but I hold a hope. This land was meant to be free. That is what draws people to her. Alaska is always swallowing people up. I believe she always will.

  • Imaginary Chaos

    Avoiding the option of “the end of the world”, I have two different theories about how Alaska will be in 100 years.

    My more optimistic outlook is that I think that Alaska will be considered extremely independent. I think that in the next 100 years, Alaska will be able to support itself. It will grow and expand and be even more than what it is now. Even more people will learn to grow their own food and there will be more green houses providing fresh fruits and vegetables for people. More people will want to come to Alaska. The map of our state will no longer be the tiny size it is always portrayed to be on larger maps (like shown on the news, etc.). Also I think that in the next 100 years Alaska will have the same restaurants and stores that are found commonly in the lower 48. For example Jamba Juice (smoothie shop), Red Lobster, and larger malls that have a different variety of clothing stores. Also I think that Alaska’s beauty won’t change that much in the next 100 years which will make it more desirable vacation place. I also think that there will be more bridges and roads connecting some of the smaller islands in the Aleutian Chain; they are already working on a road from King Cove to Cold Bay.

    My more pessimistic view on how Alaska will be in the next 100 years isn’t quite such the pretty picture as my optimistic view. I think that along with all the growth there will also be a huge disappearance of all things that Alaskans love most. I think that the language of most natives will dwindle and that there will be very few people that will speak the native languages of the people of Alaska. I think that traditional ways of cooking and hunting won’t be as common or popular. I also think that, even with the Iditarod being popular today, dog sleds as a use of transportation won’t be quiet as common in Alaska. There might be some very remote areas where they might be used but I think that more people will be able to afford snow machines and other uses for transportation so that less traditional ways of travel will be less common. Going further with my more pessimistic view Alaska in 100 years, supposing global warming is a real problem, could see some very difficult climate changes that could endanger some of Alaska’s more popular wildlife. And even further in the pessimistic view, since we won’t most likely won’t be here in 100 years who’s to say that the world will be either.

  • Caroline Streeter

    This is an intriguing question. My answer is divided politically, environmentally, and culturally. In the rural areas, jobs are scarce. As towns like Anchorage, Wasilla and Palmer grow, the number of their representative officials grows. So as there are more constituents in that area, their ‘voice’ is stronger, and the jobs go to them. This is unfortunate as many rural families have so few opportunities to work they cannot save money.
    Alaska’s main source of income is oil revenue. When the pipeline first started flowing, however, the initial income was not properly invested. That means that the PFD cannot persist in perpetuity. Eventually, Alaskans will either have to sacrifice their PFDs or begin to pay a state tax. The general population would prefer to give up their PFDs, but I doubt if this would be accomplished without much griping.
    Environmentally, I think Alaska is paying the price for the big carbon dioxide polluters of the world. Sea ice is melting at an alarming rate which will change Alaska’s landscape and coast line. Over 200 village are affected by flooding or erosion. Some villages like Kivalina and Newtok are afforded little aid and are relocating on their own accord. An idea I have thought of to help floundering polar bears and recycle plastics is to make massive ‘ice bergs’ of plastic bricks, and cast them afloat in the ocean. While something like this is hardly feasible (as it is not profitable), it is an idea!
    Furthermore, Alaska’s tundra needs to be carefully protected. The taiga absorbs huge quantities of carbon dioxide, so any tundra fires which release those gases are incredibly detrimental. Immediate responses to tundra fires takes many man-hours, so this could be an opportunity to hire more local workers.
    Socially, I believe the recruitment of rural high schoolers to attend college is seriously lacking. One of my cousins could not attend UAF because they could not afford a plane ticket here. That was several years ago, and she has not started classes since.
    There are a multitude of scholarships and opportunities for rural students to apply to. My mother wrote a letter to the Tundra Times, 36 years ago along with her sisters and others in her community that the UA system needed to made classes more accessible. They had been able to obtain their Associate’s degrees, but my mother did not obtain a Bachelor’s until the 1990’s, and she was living in Fairbanks. I would like to see all of my cousins attend the UA system.
    This has important implications as Alaskan students with degrees are more suited to work in Alaska, as they have no qualms with the climate! This also keeps the money flowing within Alaska, so it aids all aspects of the economy.

  • Chad Hinders

    “Time is the school in which we learn. Time is the fire in which we burn.”
    -Delmore Schwartz: Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day

    What will the year 2113 look like in Alaska? As a student of history I know it is best to look to the recent past to see what lies ahead in the future. I have always tried to remain a keen observer of the world around me. I enjoy spotting trends and new ideas and speculating on their possible impact. During my brief period on this planet, and even briefer stint in Alaska, I have noticed several relevant economic, social, and technological trends that will impact Alaska’s future.

    However, before this, I would like to list the Top 5 Predictions for Alaska in 2113 That May (not) Come True:

    (1) State is bought by cruise lines and renamed CarniWegainPrincessHollandlandia. (2)Must earn your PFD through personal combat in the “Thunder Dome”.
    (3)Alaska Republican Don Young wins 74th election against Democrat opponent despite being dead for 87 years.
    (4)Governor is now assigned to the state by oil companies, doing away with messy elections.
    (5)Every man woman and child now has his or her own reality TV show.

    Seriously though, Alaska has come a long way in the last 100 years, and the pace only seems to be steadily accelerating as we enter the second decade of this century. However, the trends I see developing right now deal mostly with economic and resource-development factors. The cost of living in Alaska has always been high. It is a simple matter of supply and demand and logistics. Commodities and “necessities” from Outside cost more to ship here from their places of manufacture. It is ironic that the cost of oil (one of Alaska’s main commodities) is forcing an involuntary exodus of people from rural Alaska to urban environments due to the extremely high cost of heating homes, schools, and businesses. Rates of rural Alaskans moving to cities in search of education, jobs, and housing have doubled since 2006, and last year alone over 2,700 people left their towns and villages to live in an urban environment (ADN 2012). This could mean a steep decline in services to rural areas as populations decrease. If they fall to such a low amount their state-run schools will be closed and that is the death knell for any rural community. Without a school, families will leave and the village will be shuttered up and forgotten.

    However, this may signal a large influx of people moving to Alaska’s many regional “Hub” communities like Nome, Bethel, Unalakleet, etc. These counties may become new centers of regional activity if roads are built connecting them with the state’s preexisting infrastructure. Although the idea of a road to Nome may sound far-fetched now, resources and demand may make it a reality. Coal is abundant in Northwest Alaska, a road opening up its reserves would spur economic development in an area of the state that is sorely needing jobs and revenue.

    However, this development will come at a price. The loss of Native language and traditions is a common theme in the Americanization of Alaska. Although school children now are not being beaten for speaking their language, it is being lost through the invasion of cable TV and the American popular culture it brings with it. But, this is the way of all cultures, to adapt and redefine themselves according to the influences pressing upon them.

    But, I do see Alaska Natives as forerunners in the move to modernize Alaska and bringing their own ingenuity and perspective to solve problems. For thousands of years, Alaska Natives lived in this land without modern fuel to heat their homes. They built semi-subterranean houses that were efficient and economical. I can imagine a future where Alaska homes will be built on this model to both conserve energy and blend in with the environment. A cozy Hobbit home running on electricity generated by a small autonomous community nuclear generator would be my vision for a better rural Alaska.

    Alaska is in the middle of a transitional period of its history. Balancing the needs of an energy-hungry populace demanding more resource development, and environmental concerns wishing to guard Alaska’s wilderness from exploitation. With the growth of Alaska’s tourist economy, I see environmentalist holding the edge in this battle. Additionally, as the state shifts to an economy based upon seasonal employment and tourism, the already transient nature of Alaska’s population will become even more pronounced.

    Also, ethnic diversity is continuing to expand in Alaska. 95 different languages are spoken at home among Anchorage School District’s students (www.askk12.org). Alaska is home to growing and thriving Hmong, Filipino, and Samoan communities. A new mix of Asian and Pacific Islander influence will give Alaska a new cultural flavor in the next century.

    Although the challenges of the next century of Alaskan history are great, so are the capabilities of its people. I ardently hope that my children and grandchildren inherit a state where common sense and compromise have developed our resources and natural treasures for the greatest amount of common good. Or, at least they get their own TV show.

  • Nikki

    Where are we Alaskans heading?

    Thats a good question, with a possibly scary, potential answer. The way I see it is if our children keep their heads in technology with no real motivation or desire to hunt, fish, berry pick then everything that our parents, and grandparents taught us will be lost. If they have no desires to speak their native language their children (our grandchildren) will have to learn from a computer, or class. If they have no desire to learn the stories that have been passed down from generation to generation then our great grandchildren will never know. I would hope that my generation of young adults will begin to teach the younger generations the knowledge and wisdom that our elders have left with us. They have given us the power and knowledge to continue our native traditions of storytelling, hunting, berry picking, gathering greens and so much more. I hope that we return back to our native traditions of sharing, taking care of each other, and respect.

    We need to respect and take care of our lands so it can continue to feed us, shelter us, and care for us. I hope that we are heading back to our roots. Back to what our grandparents, and parents have taught us. We need to keep our traditions, culture and language alive. We cannot allow technology, television and soda pop to bring us down. We must conquer all.

  • Cherie

    I have both optimistic and pessimistic views of where Alaska could be in 100 years. The optimist in me believes that Alaska will thrive in the future. I hope that future generations will protect the natural resources in Alaska and find new ways to preserve the environment. I like to believe that new discoveries will be made that will undo the damage that has been caused to the ozone, oceans, rivers, and streams and these discoveries will save Alaska’s animals and fish. Children today are much more technologically advanced than I was and I believe this trend will continue. The world today is becoming more environmentally aware and I feel that it will continue to be an important issue in the future. My optimist belief is that people are going to see the importance of learning about the Alaska Native culture and it will not be lost. I think that the world has come a long way in tolerance and acceptance of people who are different from themselves and that will continue in the future.

    However, the pessimistic side of me feels that Alaska may be completely striped of its greatness. I fear that big business will continue to have influence in congress and laws will be passed that are not in the best interest of Alaskans. As much as I’d personally like to see term limits on members of congress and the senate, I don’t think that will happen in the future. The United States is in economic crisis and I don’t see that changing. I wonder if there will be a major economic depression that forces people to go back to the past to get through. I could see many people coming to Alaska to live off the land because there is so much open land here. It would be difficult for people to live off the land in the lower 48 because so much land has been built up and turned into businesses. That is definitely not the case in Alaska. If the government goes bankrupt, the resource management agencies may get shut down and that could lead to over hunting and over fishing. The worst-case scenario is that in 100 years, the things that make Alaska great could be gone.

    After thinking through both possibilities, I am really leaning more towards the optimistic view of Alaska in 100 years. I think and hope that future generations have a great love and respect for the place I call home. I think education is going to be very important in preserving Alaska’s future and more and more people are getting that education. There are many more career options in environmental preservation than there have been in the past and that will continue in the future.