Each academic year, the University of Alaska Southeast Sustainability Committee determines how best to serve the university community through outreach and educational events related to sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary group of faculty, with representatives from administration, staff, and the student body. Our committee mandate is to promote conservation practices and the wise use of resources at UAS, but for many of us, our vision of sustainability extends beyond these practical directives to include values of fairness and equity, cultural and economic viability, and long-term healthy ecosystems.
This year, the committee adopted “Fish, Food, and the Future” as a centralizing theme around which to organize public events and educational programming. The theme integrates local and global concerns and builds upon much of what is already happening at UAS with regards to faculty research, food sovereignty events through the Native and Rural Student Center on the Juneau campus, and course offerings. This year’s events center on how social and cultural values, political decision-making, scientific research, and economic uncertainty link to issues such as food security and food justice, the cultural and economic importance of fisheries, the expansion of renewable energy in Juneau, and responses to threats from transboundary mines and climate change.
To this end, Professor Kevin Maier (English), one of our long-term Sustainability Committee members and a current Alaska Humanities Forum Salmon Fellow, recently organized “Salmon Stories,” a celebration of local foods, salmon lives, and salmon stories. Also, I was a recent Evening at Egan speaker, discussing my research findings on perceptions of threats to the food supply in Southeast Alaska. I’ve interviewed dozens of food cultivators, fishermen, foragers, and food security advocates in the region. Although not a sustainability committee sponsored-event, we are supporting Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 9, “Past, Present, and Future Working Together,” which will be held at all three UAS campuses. Centered around sovereignty, peacekeeping, cultural knowledge and “all things deer,” events will be held on the UAS campus during the day. That evening, the Juneau community is invited to join the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska for evening celebration activities at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, which will include a dance performance by Woosh.ji.een, guest speakers, and cultural demonstrations.
On Nov. 7, the Juneau UAS campus will host its second annual Power &Privilege Symposium, a one day conference-style teach-in for members of the UAS and Southeast Alaska communities to come together and engage in difficult and honest conversation about the ways social hierarchies and identities manifest themselves in our communities. Given the popularity of the committee’s panel last year, “Examining Climate Change through a Lens of Power &Privilege,” we are proposing expanding this topic to allow for a more in-depth look through the perspective of humanities, social and natural sciences.
The committee is also seeking to expand beyond the university borders to work with community groups such as Renewable Juneau and 350 Juneau. Our most important collaborator is the UAS Sustainability Club, a student-led campus group that makes many of our events possible with its members’ time, enthusiasm, and volunteer labor. Needless to say, the club likely has more fun than the committee, but is equally dedicated to a more sustainable UAS. This year, one of the club’s goals is to create an on-campus garden.
Students interested in sustainability have a wide range of course offerings to choose from. Just to highlight a few, this fall “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Climate Change,” “Geological Resources and Environmental Impacts” and “The Anthropocene” are offered at the Juneau campus, while the Ketchikan campus offers a course on traditional and contemporary preparation and use of Southeast coastal resources. This class has also produced a cookbook, “A Taste of Southeast Alaska — Drumbeats: Strengthening the Sustainability of Rural Alaskan Communities,” which enhances food sovereignty by sharing information with the next generation and the community at large. Looking ahead to spring term, Sustainability Committee faculty will be teaching courses such as “Salmon, Sport, and Society,” “Environmental Sociology,” and “Tropical Marine and Coastal Ecology.”
Sustainability Committee events open to the public are always posted on the University of Alaska Southeast calendar. Please visit uas.alaska.edu for more information. We hope to see you at upcoming events as we discuss “Fish, Food, and the Future.”
• Dr. Lora Vess is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Alaska Southeast and lives in Juneau. “Sustainable Alaska” is a recurring column, appearing on the first Friday of every month. It’s written by UAS Sustainability Committee members who wanted to promote sustainability. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Alaska Southeast.