While Sitka is a small town, the Sitka Conservation Society firmly believes that it can be a national leader in taking on climate change. If small-town Alaska can take meaningful progressive steps, why not any other community? For Sitka to be a national leader in sustainable living is about more than just bragging rights, though. Alaska's air and water temperatures are changing faster than any other state's, making our state the "canary in the coal mine" for the rest of the country. Sitkans are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change since our livelihoods are so intimately tied to having healthy forests and fisheries. Because of this vulnerability, SCS is committed to decreasing Sitka's dependence on fossil fuels and increasing our renewable energy capacity. SCS stands firmly behind projects like the Blue Lake Dam, the Energize! Sitka campaign, and the recent heat-pump rebate program that demonstrate that economic opportunities and carbon-conscious development often go hand-in-hand. We are convinced that Sitka's long-term economy is strengthened by clean energy projects and we will fight to protect Sitka's waters and forests from climate change.
Energize! Sitka is a partnership between the Southeast Alaska Career Center and Sitka Conservation Society. Its aim is to make Sitka more energy efficient by providing residents with extensive professional training as well as certifications for “green” jobs in the areas of construction, carpentry, and weatherization techniques. Energize! Sitka also provides community-wide outreach for home weatherization and energy efficiency.
Educating young people about our energy issues is the best way to ensure an energy independent future for Sitka. The Sitka Conservation Society has begun visiting school classes to talk about our sustainable options. Lessons in those classroom visits include Sitka’s energy situation, plans for conservation, fossil fuels use in Alaska, home weatherization, and home and building energy audits.
The Sitka Conservation Society has worked to keep year-round messages of energy conservation and efficiency in local and regional media. We inform residents about state weatherization programs, local energy updates and utility changes, and simple do-it-yourself home weatherization projects.
SCS is keeping a close watch on how climate change affects the Tongass through our annual summer field work. This research supplements that being done by the Forest Service and others and includes monitoring changes in ice packs, glaciers, and plant and animal populations. While we hate to document the negative changes climate change is causing in the Tongass, having good data is crucial for our advocacy work and could ultimately prevent future harm.
The Sitka Conservation Society and Pundit Productions produced the short film “Rain Power” in 2010 with the primary goal of encouraging policy makers to support a hydroelectric expansion in Sitka. The film shows that a small community like Sitka can be a leader in renewable energy and that hydropower can be set up in a way not to damage fish runs. The film's goal was realized this year with the completion of the Blue Lake Dam.
Sitka is in the vanguard of Alaska communities looking beyond oil-dependence and into renewable energy. While we still have a long ways to go, we have built a strong foundation and we are showing how small communities are finding solutions for global challenges.