Artwork from inside cover of report “Learning to Thrive: Alaska’s next economy in a warming world” by Alyssa Quintyne. (Alaska Climate Alliance)

Artwork from inside cover of report “Learning to Thrive: Alaska’s next economy in a warming world” by Alyssa Quintyne. (Alaska Climate Alliance)

My Turn: Two visions of Alaska’s future

As the world experiences this unparalleled moment of ecological crises, two competing visions are playing out in public discourse

After two weeks of harrowing negotiations at the COP28 summit in Dubai, world leaders and oil giants decamped after agreeing to transition away from fossil fuels. Now, the real work begins to move the world off of fossil fuels, which is easier said than done as it has been widely reported that the U.S. has produced record amounts of oil and gas this year despite pleas from climate advocates.

As the world experiences this unparalleled moment of ecological crises, two competing visions for Alaska’s response are playing out in public discourse.

The “status quo” response would have us continue our dependence on a boom-and-bust extractive economy that benefits outside corporations at the expense of Alaskans and the state’s air, waters, lands, fisheries and wildlife. An alternative “just transition” response envisions a regenerative economy that reshapes social and environmental justice, enhances local community self-determination, reduces climate-wrecking emissions and is based on the understanding that Indigenous ways of knowing are the foundation of a sustainable future.

A new report from the Alaska Climate Alliance, “Learning to Thrive: Alaska’s next economy in a warming world,” lays out an achievable vision for a prosperous economy beyond oil and gas and outlines actionable steps our policymakers should take to begin the urgently needed transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. It calls on legislators in Alaska to promote policies that will allow our state to grow in the metrics that matter: human welfare, health, happiness, and community stability. Together we can build a more resilient and robust economy to ensure that all Alaskans can thrive and prosper into the future.

An Alaska that depends less on oil and gas does not necessarily mean a less prosperous one. Regenerative economies build community wealth in ways that improve ecological and social well-being. They create long-term, meaningful jobs that sustain our communities, lands, and waters, and promote high-quality ways of life. This economic system is not new; for millennia Alaska Native traditional values and practices have focused on well-being, cultural continuity, and a holistic, integrated worldview — values that can strengthen our next economy and provide the foundation for the Alaska livelihoods and lifestyles we love.

Alaska is on the front lines of climate impacts, warming two to three times faster than the global average. Recognizing these unprecedented environmental changes, Alaskans have an opportunity to re-envision and achieve a regenerative economy that provides greater benefits and security.

“Learning to Thrive” outlines ways to achieve a regenerative economy in Alaska. We invite Alaskans to engage our leaders in support of actions that will enhance and build regenerative economies and lessen our reliance on fossil fuels. “Learning to Thrive” is meant not only as a guide for action, but also as an example of what a just transition can look like where no one is left behind. See the report at

Eleanor Gagnon is the Economic Vision Fellow with the Alaska Just Transition Collective based in Fairbanks. Kay Brown is Arctic Policy Director for Pacific Environment, based in Anchorage; she is a former state representative and former director of Oil and Gas for the state of Alaska.

More in Opinion

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Alaska House makes the right decision on constitutionally guaranteed PFD

The proposed amendment would have elevated the PFD to a higher status than any other need in the state

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, a Soldotna Republican who co-chairs the House Education Committee, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Rep. Justin Ruffridge: Creating a road map to our shared future

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

An array of solar panels stand in the sunlight at Whistle Hill in Soldotna, Alaska, on Sunday, April 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Renewable Energy Fund: Key to Alaska’s clean economy transition

AEA will continue to strive to deliver affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy to provide a brighter future for all Alaskans.

Mount Redoubt can be seen acoss Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: An open letter to the HEA board of directors

Renewable energy is a viable option for Alaska

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, speaks in opposition to an executive order that would abolish the Board of Certified Direct-Entry Midwives during a joint legislative session on Tuesday, March 12, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Making progress, passing bills

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Priya Helweg is the deputy regional director and executive officer for the Office of the Regional Director (ORD), Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Department of Health and Human Services, Region 10. (Image via
Opinion: Taking action on the maternal health crisis

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate among high-income countries

Heidi Hedberg. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Department of Health)
Opinion: Alaska’s public assistance division is on course to serve Alaskans in need more efficiently than ever

We are now able to provide in-person service at our offices in Bethel, Juneau, Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Wasilla

Sara Hondel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Alaskan advocate shines light on Alzheimer’s crisis

In the heart of the nation’s capital next week, volunteers will champion the urgent need for legislative action to support those affected by Alzheimer’s

Most Read