Polar bears and sea snails tell a human story
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Alaska Brief Newsletter–September 2017

Polar bears and sea snails tell a human story

I just got back from Barter Island and the Inupiaq village of Kaktovik, where I joined a handful of Trustees’ long-time supporters in watching polar bears in the wild. What amazing animals. What amazing people–those who have lived and thrived in the Arctic for millennia, and those who fight for its health.

This was my second trip to the area. Last year’s adventure left me informed, but worried for the iconic animal’s survival.

This time, seeing the bears and listening to our guides inspired me to work harder than ever to protect our oceans and Arctic region. Jack Kayotuk and Steve Kazlowski have been guiding these trips for nearly a decade and have a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience about the bears and their Arctic habitat.

Polar bears need sea ice and healthy oceans to survive. People do, too.

We need trust, not division

The hurricane and floods in Texas, hurricanes in the Caribbean and southeast United States, fires in the northwest–all these catastrophic weather events result from a complex and changing climate influenced by the massive output of carbon we have been producing since the industrial revolution began.

Addressing climate change is one of Trustees’ priorities. Right now, just as we need national leadership that elevates science and proactive policy over politics, we find ourselves mired in climate arguments made corrupt by profit agendas and leaders who bury their heads in the sand and their hands in the public’s wallet.

I can’t imagine the loss and devastation so many people are feeling now, but I know that it creates a longing in me to help and build community.

Yet, instead of leadership built on collective trust, we find ourselves governed by leaders wildly out of touch. In fact, what’s happening in national politics looks a lot more like a soap opera about selfish children than reality. But what’s happening is very real and very dangerous.

Nancy Lord’s book “pH: The Novel” gives science and sea snails lead roles

While the drama unfolds, so many issues go unaddressed. As pH levels in oceans go down, the water becomes an acidic environment where the shells of small creatures disintegrate and die. These small animals form the base of the food chain. Their loss threatens the survival and abundance of life in the sea, a major source of food for the planet.

Right now, our ability to tell the human story may save us. Recent stories of people running from floods and deadly winds, of helping their neighbors and communities, of demanding health care access and clean water, give us reason to believe in each other. People come together when fighting for their communities, and stories remind us of what we’re fighting for.

That’s one reason we’re hosting a reading and conversation featuring Nancy Lord, whose new book, “pH: A Novel,” was just released this month. She describes it as the story of “marine scientists and an artist trying to present the truths of what we’re doing to our oceans–and getting into trouble.”

The book also puts the human face on climate change and ocean acidification. It puts the human heart into the urgency of what needs to be done. This free event starts at 6 p.m. Anchorage author Marybeth Holleman will read at 7 p.m., and Nancy at 7:30 p.m. Join us then at the Cynosure Brewing Company, 144 E. Potter Drive in Anchorage.

The people behind Trustees

Leading up to that literary event, we also want to invite you to a Trustees meet and greet from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, at the Pangea Restaurant, 508 W. 6th Ave. in Anchorage. We’ll provide appetizers, drinks and a warm space to connect and talk about the future.

My recent trip to Barter Island gave me space to step away from day-to-day work and reflect on why I have continued to do this work for so long. Whenever I get these chances to get out and reconnect with nature, it is just so obvious to me that everything is connected.

I need these connections not just to survive, but also to thrive. I do the work I do because I need the wild. I do it because I have to.


Vicki Clark

Executive Director

PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.


Michelle and partner Ranger B wave from a ridge in Denali National Park. A bittersweet farewell.

A bittersweet farewell

Michelle Sinnott started working for Trustees is December 2014. Now she’s leaving Trustees to go back to her legal roots. Here she shares the story behind this bittersweet transition.

A photo of Nancy Lord in a field of wild flowers and grasses

Photo by Irene Owsley

Writing on science and hope: a community reading

Nancy Lord’s new book, “pH: A Novel,” just came out this month. She and Anchorage author Marybeth Holleman will read at our community outreach event Oct. 3. It’s free to all. You’re invited!

Science tells a human story

Nancy Lord talks about using science to weave story in her new novel, and using fiction to give science a human face and heart.

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