On aging advocacy and tourism

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, July 28, 2006

May I take a risk and write on two subjects at once?

Sound off on the important issues at

First, I attended a conference on future Alaska aging advocacy. Summarizing excessively: a) send thoughtful, personal e-mail or fax - but not mail or form letters - to Congress; b) government plans to de-institutionalize seniors much as it did for the mentally ill (again with cover stories to hide funding cuts); c1) maintaining personal health may differ from seeing doctors; c2) good national or state health (average longevity) relates to a small ratio between CEO income and worker income (the United States is 29th in the international "health Olympics," but Alaska is ninth among states, what with no billionaires and sending most everyone so-helpful, healthful Alaska Permanent Fund dividends); and d) AARP uses an effective, learnable lobbying formula. Seniors and their friends may contact me for details.

Second, Juneau and Alaska wilderness disappears as managers of mass marketed tourism remake Juneau wilderness scenes into permanently paved pulchritudinous pasteurized park.

"They" are filing off the edges. Sidewalks, wheelchair ramps and gently sculpted artificial hills (some decorated with mining artifacts) appear in odd places; parking lots grow ever larger; tourism activity expands even away from downtown.

Still mysterious: Why don't tourism managers emphasize Juneau as 1912-to-present-day "Alaska's capital," instead of not-since-1940s mining?

It's your choice to think this beautification process good or bad. Either way, know what's happening. Area-wide wilderness - Skater's Cabin and the end of the road, Auke Bay, Jacobson dock area, Auke Village Recreation Area, South Franklin, Mendenhall Glacier, etc. - not just downtown wilderness, is becoming citified, prettified, bowdlerized and homogenized. Later in time, yes; progress, no.

Alaska tourism has a long history, which is fine; 500,000 passengers annually provide enough for all, but more is greed - which knows no end. Greed results in losing real "Alaska," the very place tourists want to visit; the very place we locals loved. But that's just me, not necessarily any group I'm in.

Is this inevitable? Not hardly. If government really regulated tourist numbers, perhaps by increasing fees until the numbers shrank to 500,000. But what happens to the government's "will to regulate" the numbers or tourists, when the government gets just a few million in tourism landing fee money? Answer: That will to regulate seems to disappear - and Alaska's wilderness with it.

Joe Sonneman


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