Cade Terada and Brian Conwell, traveled along with 19 other youth from across the state to Chugiak, Alaska to attend an Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) summit.
AYEA is a youth led organization that was started in 1998 by six environmentally driven teens in Anchorage. Since then, it has grown into a statewide organization that has worked on many important environmental issues in the state of Alaska, such as the Pebble Mine. AYEA has been successful at encouraging youth to get involved in the political process, training youth on how to effect change, and creating lifelong friendships between participants. This year, there were 19 youth from 11 different communities at the summit.
Every year, AYEA comes up with a campaign that it will focus on, and this year it was to stop the proposed Chuitna Coal Mine and enact legislation that would protect salmon habitats across the state. The proposed Chuitna Coal Mine is a strip mine that would permanently destroy around 14 miles of pristine salmon streams in the Cook Inlet area. The local towns and villages have relied on these streams for thousands of years and fishing for salmon is an important part of their culture. Also, the coal taken out of the mine would deposit 750 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As you can see, there are many reasons to oppose this mine.
AYEA organizes two summits per year, the Organizer Summit in the fall, and the Civics and Conservation Summit in the spring. The one that Cade and Brian attended was the Organizer Summit. At the summit, there were workshops, presentations, and group activities to get involved in the campaign. The participants in the summit learned how a bill becomes a law, the effects of coal on the environment, how to spread word through social media, and how to support people in a political campaign. All of these things will help the teens work on their campaign to oppose the Chuitna Coal Mine.
At the Civics and Conservation Summit, which is held in Juneau, AYEA will talk with legislators about a bill that would protect salmon habitats from potentially harmful projects that may pop up in the future. In the bill, called the Save Our Salmon (S.O.S.) Bill, AYEA wants a variety of common-sense laws in place for developing on salmon habitats. For more information on the bill, visit www.standforsalmon.org.
Being in AYEA is a great opportunity to meet other motivated and ambitious people, learn about the environment, and better understand the political process. Cade and Brian encourage any interested teen to apply for a summit. Cade, who is a two-year veteran of AYEA, says that being in AYEA is important to him because, “Alaska is the final frontier, and we should work to preserve our beautiful landscape so that others can enjoy it in the future.”
For more information on getting involved with AYEA or the campaign, talk to Cade Terada or Brian Conwell, or visit the Alaska Center website at akcenter.org/ayea. You can find more information on the Chuitna Coal Mine at chuitna.org.