The Renewable Energy: People Power used in the Protection of our Wild Salmon

"Aint no power like the power of the people ‘cause the power of the people don't stop!" We as a community have great potential to create the change we want to see in the world because this change is initiated by something we all have—our voice. We have the ability to envision things differently, contemplate the steps necessary to enact our vision, and then put those steps into action through our words, community involvement, and passion. These efforts typically don't have to start with a large group of people because change can begin with an individual, and that individual could be you.

When I met local Sitkan Paul Rioux and experienced his determination to raise awareness about genetically engineered salmon, I was seeing firsthand the power of voice and the importance of standing up for your beliefs. For Paul, organizing a rally that would protest genetically engineered salmon was one of those ways to stand up. "I saw that there were rallies going on in other parts of the country, and I decided that it would be nice to do one here," Paul said. Through Paul's actions, over 130 people came to the rally, which was then publicized by Senator Murkowski, Senator Begich, and Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins. Four days after the event, the Food and Drug Administration announced they were going to extend the period to comment on genetically engineered salmon by 60 days, with the new date being April 26th, 2013. I'm certain that Sitka's activism helped spur this extension.

To make this happen, we started small. We gained support from fishing organizations like the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association (ALFA) and the Alaska Troller's Association (ATA), who passed the message on to their members; we held sign-making parties at the SCS office, Blatchley Middle School, and Ventures; flyers were created, posted, and handed out, featuring both information on the rally and how to submit a comment to the FDA opposing genetically engineered salmon; Raven Radio had us on their Morning Interview, where myself, Paul, and David Wilcox, a Blatchley middle school student running across the country in protest of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), discussed the negative impacts of genetically engineered salmon; both the Mudflats blog and Fish Radio with Laine Welch hosted information on the rally to raise awareness to their subscribers that the FDA was considering approving genetically engineered salmon; and the day of the event, the local news station, the Sitka Sentinel, and Raven Radio came out to document the event, which made it on the front page of the paper. Days after the rally, Sitka's Assembly also approved, on a 7-0 vote, a resolution stating the city's opposition to frankenfish.

Technology more than ever can be used to organize our social networks, tell our stories to folks that live in communities all over the country, and enforce our opinion to decision makers to listen to their constituents. This can happen with any issue that we find ourselves passionate about, and for Paul that issue was the health of our wild salmon from the Tongass.

It is right here in our community that we can create the world we want to see through our actions, but this can only happen through an engaged, active citizenry. Far too often I encounter folks who are somewhat cynical to the democratic process, folks that have lost faith in the power of their voice. But in the end, if no one takes action, nothing gets done.

What kind of world do you want to live in? For us at the Sitka Conservation Society, we want the management of the Tongass to benefit the communities that depend upon its natural resources while supporting the habitats of the salmon, black tail-deer, and bears that roam wildly about. Sitkans like Paul Rioux remind us that our voice is a catalyst for change, and by speaking and standing up for what you believe in, we can continuously create the world we want to live in. Let us stand up together, generate the renewable energy of people power, and work towards that future some say is a dream but can be a reality if we work towards it.

If you haven't submitted a comment opposing Frankenfish, please go to!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0899-0685. For the required field "Organization Name," you can put "Citizen" and for the category, you can put "Individual Consumer." Do it right now, it only takes a few minutes!

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