Tens of millions of dollars are spent each year on housing and infrastructure to improve quality of life in rural Alaska – wind turbines, power houses, roads, housing, weatherization, plumbing, and much more. Meanwhile, many Alaska communities are struggling to survive in the face of energy costs, climate change, coastal erosion, lack of jobs, and other challenges.
Plenty of organizations are trying to help – state and federal agencies, regional corporations, housing authorities, tribal entities, nonprofits – each focused on an individual aspect: energy, housing, sanitation, transportation, health, local economies, culture, education. Yet rarely do we address all these pieces in a holistic approach. The evidence is everywhere: brand new $70,000 sewer lines hooked up to rotting houses; leaky homes in villages that pay $8 a gallon for heating fuel; roads built one year and dug up the next to install water pipe.
The Holistic Approach to Sustainable Northern Communities is a demonstration project that will factor in the many elements of community development. It started with two roundtable discussions this fall, where leaders from all levels of government and community planning came together and shared their successes and challenges, their needs and ideas for a more effective process. Now we are planning a pilot project in the Yukon Kuskokwim region that starts with one piece and builds a model of collaboration for all communities in Alaska.
Stay tuned for our next roundtable in Anchorage in December!