Alaskans will welcome the office of the president to Alaska this month, being good hosts and hoping for an equally pleasant guest in President Obama.
For both, this visit represents much responsibility.
Alaska is home to the nation’s only Arctic region, which is being dramatically affected by a warming climate.
Alaska also is a massive state, a land about a fifth the size of the whole continental United States, with huge investments in the oil industry and other economic development, mostly a result of extracting natural resources.
Alaska depends on this development for its financial well-being, as the latest budget crisis driven by decreased oil prices has demonstrated.
The industry and the environment must coexist. Ultimately, it is the leaders of Alaska and the nation — specifically, Gov. Bill Walker and President Obama at present — who are responsible for ensuring that.
Obama will visit Alaska to speak to a global Arctic leadership summit in Anchorage. He also will travel to the Arctic itself, visiting Kotzebue. He wants to see and hear the stories of the effects of warming on glaciers, permafrost, villages and the way of life for Alaskans there.
Obama, if he’s to be truly informed and work with Alaska when it comes to the Arctic, he must be made fully aware. Primarily, he must come to recognize that while Alaska is very different from Kotzebue to Ketchikan, it also is a state of communities that share the same hopes and dreams of prosperity. Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska might be distant from the Arctic, but the actions taken there affect all Alaska communities, and, therefore, affect this region, too.
Ketchikan and Southeast will experience the consequences of good and bad Arctic decisions along with the other communities.
The Obama administration is highly concerned about global warming, hence the president’s visit. Earlier this summer, he imposed unprecedented pollution limits on power plants across the country. This week 15 states petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C., Circuit to block the regulations that outline those limits.
Given that, Alaskans welcoming the president should be prepared for the mindset of the man who will come to visit. The visit will require providing a concise — Obama won’t be staying long — and accurate picture of Alaska, not only as an Arctic state, but the state as a whole.
We Alaskans are in this together, despite political preferences. If we fall, we go down together. If we rise, which we prefer, our days will be looking up significantly as we begin resolving the latest budget challenge in earnest, while addressing issues such as the Arctic. We don’t need anything imposed on us that would make doing that more difficult.
Alaskans know Alaska and its issues, including global warming. It’s appropriate for President Obama to come visit and discuss those with us.
We hope he hears and acknowledges the whole Alaska story, not just one part of it — the Arctic part.
— Ketchikan Daily News, Aug. 15