After a summer of climate chaos, I’m ready for change

Written by Matt Jackson

September 8, 2023

The news this summer has, frankly, been overwhelming — even for someone like me who has the privilege of being paid to pay attention to climate change.

The disastrous Suicide Basin flood of the Mendenhall River. The landslides in downtown Juneau that now seem almost routine. A summer so wet and cold that salmon berries didn’t ripen and the blueberry crop up north is nearly nonexistent. Recently, on a ferry ride up from Bellingham, I literally could not see Vancouver Island because there was so much wildfire smoke. The tragedy in Lahaina. The heatwaves in South America WHERE IT IS WINTER! Wildfires in Louisiana of all places — if you had asked me a year ago if the Mississippi River Bayou was a place where there would be wildfires I would not have thought it possible. One takeaway for me, maybe even the Tongass won’t be safe from wildfire. We know the general trend should lean towards more rain but, in escalating climate chaos, drought is increasingly likely and wildfire increasingly possible.

I’ve been asking myself a lot recently, how do I take appropriate action to this scale of catastrophe? To be honest, even in a professional climate change position, it does feel dismaying. But we can’t afford to be dismayed!

So here are two little things that are bringing me some hope right now.

Getting Organized

Grassroots interest in climate action is growing! I’ve been especially impressed by 350 Juneau’s increasingly creative actions, from chainsawing climate financing credit cards to expansive theatrical fairs to crashing the Permanent Fund’s otherwise boring annual meetings. They’re making a difference and they’re having fun doing it! They’ve got a great website at 350Juneau.org, and are really responsive to email at 350juneau@gmail.com. If you’re wondering how to get more involved in the climate movement locally, getting in touch with 350Juneau is a great start. They’re hosting another rally on September 17, so stay tuned for more exciting developments.

If you’re not in Juneau and wondering how to start a group like that in your hometown, give me a call. Seriously. We want to support more movements like this all over the region. SEACC’s deepest roots are in bringing together a community of concerned folks from all over Southeast Alaska to deal with our biggest challenges. We can do it again for climate change.

Getting Somewhere

I’m reluctant to give President Biden too much credit — he has, afterall, approved the Willow project and a bunch of other shameful fossil fuel fiascos recently — but thanks to massive activist pressure, we have managed to secure some big incentives for clean energy for regular people like you and me. I’m talking, of course, about the big wins from the Infrastructure Bill and the Inflation Reduction Act. There are big structural changes, for example the next mainline Alaskan Ferry will be a diesel/battery hybrid. But there are also BILLIONS of dollars in tax incentives and rebates for things like heat pumps, electric cars, induction stoves, water heaters etc. If you own a single thing that runs off fossil fuels, (other than a boat – sorry!) there’s probably thousands of dollars in incentives for you to upgrade to a modern, money saving, clean electric appliance. I just installed a heat pump that will save me about $100 a month on my utility bill and, between Alaska Heat Smart and the Inflation Reduction Act tax incentives, it will only cost me about $3000, meaning it will pay for itself in less than three years. You too could be saving hundreds of dollars a month on your utility bill — and saving the planet!

Getting to Zero

Of course neither of these two things are sufficient on their own — even together, they won’t get us to zero emissions by 2050, which is where we need to be to mitigate the most extreme potential for climate chaos and suffering — but they are a good start. Both lead to bigger and better next steps. The more we get organized and the more we can demand, the more likely we are to elect real climate leaders. The more we invest in the clean energy future, the easier the rest of our energy transition will be. So despite how dismaying all this climate news can be, I urge you to not give up hope! Go take a small step — attend a 350 Juneau Rally, install an induction range — or do something bigger and bolder!

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