We then spent the afternoon learning about Alaska’s efforts to promote clean energy opportunities, in particular for its rural communities. We visited the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHR), a nonprofit that is focused on providing energy efficient, affordable and sustainable shelters (buildings) for Alaskans and other circumpolar people. The building itself feels like a home and is one of the most efficient green buildings we’ve ever visited with unique cold climate adjustments, such as the ability to adjust to changing permafrost and new forms of installation that are super efficient even in extreme temperatures. Following CCHR, we met with staff from the Alaska Center for Energy and Power, Only two years old, the organization has combined public investment, private sector innovation, university resources and collaboration with rural communities to provide Alaskan leadership with cold weather clean energy solutions. From researching the potential for wave, river and tidal energy, to exploring distributed energy options for rural communities, the Alaska Center has been pushing for reasonable and predictable priced power that reduces the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. Both of these initiatives were not only fun to learn about, but are extremely hopeful. Signs like these exist across the country and it is extremely empowering to know that there are people working everywhere on sustainable solutions for our communities.
Our final presentation was at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. Crammed in a log cabin with the beginning of the 24 hour light peaking through the windows, over 150 people from the dog mushing community came to meet and hear Will Steger’s expedition stories. The crowd was a familiar audience for Will; everyone identified with the dog sled experience and were extremely fascinated with the difference between sled doing racing, like the Iditarod and Yukon Quest, familiar to this region of the world, to long expeditions. People felt compelled to respond aloud during Will’s presentation at the shock of ice shelves collapsing, dogs being pulled out of crevasses, and rising thaw levels stalling a kite-ski expedition on Greenland. As the presentation neared its end, the crowd enthusiastically signed more postcards for their U.S. Senators and thanked Will for his visit. To end the day, Will finally met his dog mushing mentor, George Attala, an Alaskan native who enjoyed hearing Will’s life of exploration lead to a newfound commitment to educate people and engage them in the climate change issue.
Thanks to our friends at Clean Energy Works, National Wildlife Federation, Repower Alaska, Alaska Interfaith Power and Light, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Dog Mushing Association, and the Alaska Climate Action Network for a successful tour!