Yesterday afternoon, Alaska’s progressive bloggers responded to the growing winter crisis in the lower Yukon villages, most notably Emmonak. As word spread of the looming food and fuel crisis there, we decided to get our reporter in (no simple task!), raise funds, and tell the true story of Alaska bloggers, and how we help each other in the Far North.
Longtime Alaska Report editor and owner (and one-time firedoglake videographer) Dennis Zaki found out about the looming crisis in Emmonak at the beginning of the week. He called around, and discovered that the crisis is real, and that no established news outlets in Alaska or Outside had intentions of going out there and getting some hard news stories and video footage together.
Dennis, though not a member of Alaskans for Truth, the small, close-knit group of progressive bloggers and community organizers who are trying to get our legislature to address executive ethics reform, sought our help early Wednesday afternoon. Collectively, we got out of our moms’ basements, shed our PJ’s, left the twinkies and bags of jolly ranchers on the coffee tables in front of our worn-out couches, and got to work.
Actually, we took time off from our jobs as teachers, merchants, public servants and blue-collar workers to get this important job underway.
Within about 90 minutes of Dennis’ appeal, we had posts up at our own blogs. Alaska Real, Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis, Isligem Umyaanguarai – Islik’s Thoughts, Progressive Alaska, The Immoral Minority, and The Mudflats all had posts up, asking for donations.
The Mudflats set up a donation button that meets the highest security, accountability and ethics standards, and CC at KUDO was in touch with the village of Emmonak on the best ways to implement direct help to people in need there.
Here at firedoglake, the proprietors helped me get a post up (under my real name, Philip Munger) within minutes of submission. Daily Kos and Huffington Post ran our Alaska blogger-supplied material within that same time frame.
Within five hours, collectively, we had raised almost $5,000.00 ($4,812.00).
The current plan is to get Dennis Zaki into Emmonak, via Bethel or Nome, by mid-day Friday. He plans to spend about four days on the lower Yukon, interviewing, getting help on stories from local young people interested in journalism, taking hundreds of photos and hours of video.
CNN has indicated they will reimburse Dennis’ expenses if he provides them with a real story, and Dennis is donating his fee to the people of Emmonak and the lower Yukon.
We wouldn’t have to be sending Dennis out there to do this if Alaska’s politicians did their job. As "pathetic," to borrow Gov. Palin’s term, as Alaska politicians have been on providing sensible infrastructure for Alaska’s rural communities, these past two years have been worse than usual. Last year, when state coffers were almost overflowing from high oil revenues, rather than address long-term rural needs, Gov. Palin decided to "spread the wealth," giving millionaires and oil company CEO’s the same $1,200.00 check received by single mothers without a job. Pushed by a governor about to gain the national limelight and a legislature coming up against a tight election cycle, it was some of the most shameless, self-serving political pandering I’ve ever seen, in a state noted for its ability to do just that.
That money could have funded enough wind power, tidal power projects and geothermal pilot programs connected to our universities and community colleges to turn Alaska into the 21st model of North American renewable resource development. We could have become, to borrow Don Young opponent Diane Benson’s term, "Iceland on steroids!"
Instead, we’re faced with people having to choose between feeding their kids, or keeping their kids warm at night. And the only politician willing to step up and help – Hugo Chavez.
We’ve got enough money to send Dennis Zaki to the lower Yukon Friday. But you can donate here.