Note: Opinions expressed in commentary on KCAW are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by KCAW’s board, staff, or volunteers.

My name is Kate Zaczkowski. I am a four year senior at MEHS. I’m from Tok, a town with a population of around 2,000 people, located 90 miles from the Canadian border. On February 25, I got the chance to give testimony regarding the climate change resolution at the assembly board meeting. Although the meeting did not turn out the way I had hoped, it was a fascinating new experience to be able to voice my opinion and have it heard. Tok has no local government so Sitka’s assembly meeting was a completely new process for me. I was nervous while giving testimony but I spoke from the heart and was honest in voicing my concerns.

 Climate change is important to me because I have grown up watching its effects. As someone who lives a subsistence lifestyle at home, I don’t want to lose the precious resources that make Alaska special. I have been aware of these problems since I was a child and I remember growing up afraid for my future. Oftentimes when I would speak out about how I felt my opinion would be dismissed,  and I would get laughed at. Many others my age have grown up going through the same things. It wasn’t until I started going to MEHS that I realized I was not alone- kids from all over the state feel the same way. I think it’s important for people my age to remember that we hold power. And the best way to handle this fear is to utilize our power and get involved.

 I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to get involved in Sitka. Between Youth for Sustainable futures and my internship at Sitka Conservation Society, it’s easy to find people who are willing to listen to and educate me. I will be representing my hometown Tok and Sitka this March at AYEA (Alaska Youth for Environmental Action) in Juneau. I’m super excited to learn more about processes like this and how I can make a difference for the future. Becoming involved helps me feel powerful and drives away the fear I used to deal with.

My outlook on the future is becoming positive. I see a lot of people ready to learn about the effects of climate change such as ocean acidification, land erosion, increase in wildfires, glacial melt, and rise of sea levels. I also see people ready to make changes to become more sustainable and to reduce their emissions, which will lead to better outcomes for our state.  This is inspiring to see and I believe that the youth of Alaska will do what Alaskans do best and come together for the sake of our beautiful state.