During a recent speech, candidate Lisa Murkowski was asked her perspective on the role of oil and gas in the future of Alaska’s economy. The answer was clear. While renewable energy sources are important to explore, the source of energy that will drive our nation for this and perhaps future generations is petroleum, she said.
While it’s not very cool to admit it, most of us would agree. Look around your own community. Most homes are heated with oil and gas. Most vehicles are powered with gas. Most of what we eat comes to us using oil and gas transportation. Our nation is largely powered by oil and gas — an estimated 90 percent of our energy sources are from nonrenewables these days. And with oil and gas prices so low, it’s hard to imagine a day when the drive will be there for renewable energy sources to take the lead in the United States.
My son turned 13 this week, an age that launches him into the very beginnings of manhood as he tries to decipher everything from how to use deodorant to how to relate to women.
The same week, the news is full of talk of the recently released video by presidential hopeful Donald Trump talking about making nonconsensual advances on women in demeaning and objectified terms. While many criticized Trump for this and other actions carrying the stamp of aggressive, even criminal, disrespect of women, he remains a national celebrity who is being seriously considered as the next leader of our nation. And that’s a little difficult for me to explain to my new teenager.
This weekend, the community I call home celebrated a beautiful woman who we lost to breast cancer earlier in the year. Like so many women who leave us this way, Carmen Field was much more than her cancer. She loved nature and the outdoors, and passed that love on to thousands each year through her work as a biologist, naturalist and educator with the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve and as a naturalist on ships traveling to Antarctica and beyond. She was a mother, and through that role, became a staunch supporter of getting children out into nature. She organized things like a mud wallow and ice fishing expeditions. She wrote and gardened and had a wide circle of friends who rallied around her during her first diagnosis, when she fought back with both Western and nontraditional medicine, as well as diet and exercise, and during her second diagnosis, when she re-entered the fight with super-human strength.
Political races are sort of like divorces — they tend to bring out the deepest divisiveness among people who otherwise manage to live reasonably well side-by-side. It’s ironic that a process that should bring us all together for the common pursuit of choosing the direction of our future seems to create so much dissonance among friends and neighbors. But that certainly seems to be the way it is these days. After the first national debate this week, passionate opinions were flying fast and furious over the internet as everyone analyzed, fact-checked and ranted. It was interesting that people seemed to spend more time poking holes in their opponents than they did considering the proposed policies of the candidate they supported. That’s too bad, because we really need to pay attention to what’s being proposed down to the nitty-gritty details, not the flashy plans to change the face of the earth.
Today a large swath of Alaska was preparing for the first fall storm, the equinox storm, locals called it. News of the impending high winds and rain rippled through the region over the last 24 hours as weather predictors put their bets on a wild night for much of the state.
While storms like this can be disruptive, they also bring out some great qualities in Alaskans, because what we do when there’s a storm brewing is gather. At the local coffee shop this morning, every table was full, and almost everyone knew each other. The tourists and seasonal folks are largely gone now. It’s just us locals, and a storm prediction seems to make us social. There was a kind of anticipation in the air, even joyfulness, maybe, at the sloth of bad weather coming. People traded notes on the preparedness — batteries, check; wood split, check; extra gallon of milk, check.
We really don’t need a day or a week or a month to be reminded to think about suicide and our need to find ways to prevent it. Those sad reminders are around us all the time, in the faces of our friends and neighbors, in the missing places where vibrant lives should have been. There’s no glamour in suicide. Just sadness — and a whole lot of misperceptions about how to prevent it.
By-and-large, suicide is linked to two things — substance abuse and mental disorders, the latter of which includes a wide range of conditions that are understood almost as little as suicide. Depression ranks high, and is so often linked with both substance abuse and suicide that it’s rare when this deadly trio do not go hand in hand.
Like many Alaskans, our family hosted more than a dozen visitors from out of state this summer. Most of them fell in love with our state on bright, sunshine-filled days as they gazed at gorgeous glaciers and salmon splashing in the streams. It’s hard not to love Alaska in the summer, and more than a few of these visitors professed intentions to return, some to stay. They started asking questions about the winter, the culture, the economy.
Inevitably, the conversation would always turn to the tough facts — our high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, seasonal depression and alcoholism. Now, add to that the rising rates of opioid use and addiction, and the shiny package seems to lose its luster.
Across the state, children are heading back to school in coming weeks as summer draws to a close. Crisp outfits and school supplies are turning up all over the place, and youth are savoring their last few days to sleep in before structure returns to at least part of their lives.
And while parents are by-and-large breathing a sigh of relief at the end of summer vacation, teachers are already back in the classroom, readying themselves for another year. Educators are an extraordinary bunch of folks. Spend a few hours in a classroom, whether it’s the chaos of kindergarten, the awkward transition of middle school or the opinionated halls of high school and imagine that as your daily existence and most of us would go screaming in the opposite direction. But educators actually enjoy trying to hold the attention of 20-plus youth day in and day out, and for that, I for one am deeply grateful.
Spend as much time as any journalist does at public meetings and you will get a very real sense of how commonplace it is to see heads bowed and prayers spoken. And while most public entities, be they cities, boroughs or states, say they have an open-door policy to invocations from any group or belief, statistically, those invocations are most often given with reference to a Christian god.
That open-door policy was tested at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly this month when a woman from the national group The Satanic Temple read an invocation ending with “Hail Satan.” That didn’t go over very well with quite a few folks and protests, organized praying sessions outside the borough building and lots and lots of public testimony followed. The backlash became pointed and personal. It blurred the lines between religion and politics long after everyone went home.
Five years ago this month, my wife, Kiana Peacock, and I bought three weekly community newspapers from Alaska Newspapers Inc. For us, it was a way to give back to the communities and people that helped us become who we are.
Getting into the newspaper business was a natural progression of my business background and her ability to tell stories. One of the first people we hired was talented editor from Homer, Carey Restino. She has made sure our papers have thrived over the past five years, hiring equally talented reporters while staying connected and writing for the Homer Tribune.