FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Federation of Natives convention approved a declaration of a climate change emergency after a dispute over climate change and resource development, news organizations reported.
Delegates to the group’s convention in Fairbanks approved the declaration Saturday.
The resolution calling for the reinstatement of a climate change task force was the result of a measure drafted at a prior Elders and Youth Conference and presented by two high school students, 15-year-old Nanieezh Peter and 17-year-old Quannah Chasing Horse Potts.
“I’m worried for our generation,” Potts said. “We are crying up here, we should not have to come to you worrying about future generations.”
The pair argued for the nonbinding measure calling on the federation to restore the task force to advocate for strong climate policies, develop indigenous voices and declare a state of emergency on climate change.
Debate on whether to adopt the resolution included disagreements over how to combat climate change and the potential risk of outside interests preventing development of Alaska Native lands.
Younger convention participants voiced concerns about thawing permafrost and eroding villages. Older members expressed fears of lost access to oil and mineral resources and animals they hunt, including whales and seals.
Crawford Patkotak, chair of the Arctic Slope Regional Corp., unsuccessfully pushed for a resolution amendment designed to protect resource extraction on Native land. Arctic Slope is a Native corporation in an oil-rich region of the state.
Peter argued against the proposed amendment, saying it would protect oil and coal production contributing to global warming.
“We shouldn’t have to tell those in charge that we want to survive,” Peter said.