Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dear World...

Dear world,

I promised posts on the scary mining prospects in SW Alaska this week, but I'm ditching those posts for two weeks in SW Alaska instead!  I'm heading into the wild for a little R&R, put the finishing touches on my latest novel, and introduce my son to the Alaskan wilderness. No email, no phone, no distractions! I'll return in two weeks, and I promise I'll return with some great posts, including some cool interviews with huge authors like Jodi Picoult!

Have a great couple of weeks!



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Yup'ik View on the Donlin Creek Mine: A Guest Post

[This 'visitor' comment from my post yesterday about the proposed Pebble and Donlin mining developments in SW Alaska was so great I had to repost it and give it prime space today. The comment was written by Elaine Andrew a Yup'ik writer and educator from Kasigluk, Alaska.  She currently lives in Nunapitchuk, AK, and is a frequent commenter to the blog and hopefully will be contributing some posts when I am off the grid or just off my rocker.]

Donlin Creek, right below Crooked Creek, AK on the Kuskokwim River. I visited the site myself in 1998 with my village corporation board of directors, other area village corporation boards, and Calista Corp, which at the time was spearheading WAVE: Western Alaska Village Enterprises. Calista is heavily involved and vested in the development of this gold mine even though they represent this large region where the shareholders and descendents depend on the salmon that run here every year since the beginning of time. And we will continue to do so as long as there are still fish returning to spawn, and as long as the State allows us [Alaska Natives] to practice our time-honored-subsistence-traditions in peace.

In my opinion, the "booming success" of this business development is currently only a blessing to its owners, investors and the Alaska Natives who live in the immediate vicinity of the actual proposed gold mine. If, God forbid, the mine should fail to produce actual gold in the immediate or foreseeable future or if the reassurances from high and low about the by-products and waste materials from the operations of the mine being safe for the salmon industry fail, the consequences won't just fall into that immediate area alone. We will ALL feel it. And not just by those of us who are alive today, but maybe even by those who are yet to be born. You can't tear into ground looking for gold w/o realistically thinking about the impact that poking around is going to leave behind and anyone who says otherwise can be traced back to having Donlin Creek connections themselves.

Elaine Andrew

Monday, July 11, 2011

Buried Beneath a Pebble - Part One

This week I'm going to get a little political, a little environmental, and perhaps even a bit mad.

There are forces at work in Alaska that are operating as if being a "resource state" means that nothing is sacred, that the extraction of minerals (gold, oil, copper, zinc, etc) is the be all and end all. 

Before I get rolling on my tirade, I'm giving you, gentle reader, a little homework.  You've maybe heard a bit about Pebble Mine. That little rock of a gold and copper mine being developed in SW Alaska, at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home of the last great wild salmon run in the world. 

 Williamsport to Lake Illiamna, home to the proposed Pebble Mine
Pebble will be the largest gold mine in North America. One of the largest in the world. And while the money machine behind Pebble rolls over Alaskans, more boulder than pebble, another mine slips quietly beneath the radar.  This other mine is not quite the scale of Pebble, but still enormous in size and value and in an area where people rely on the salmon not just for the fishing industry, but for their very existence.

Do a little research, inform yourself --- what is the name of this gold mine buried beneath the media war for and against Pebble? What are your feelings about it? What other projects are being funded with Alaskan revenue specifically for this mine?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Renowned Alaskan Musher & Lawyer Reviews Debut Novel


[The following review was stolen from the fine website of Angstman Law Office. Be sure to check out  out ALO's June news.]

The ALO webpage has yet to do its first book review. However, Don Rearden's novel The Raven's Gift has changed all that. Don has deep connections to ALO. In fact he used to bring his high school writing to the office for editing. Along the way Don was around for hunting, fishing, camping, dog mushing, flying, an occasional party, and a helping hand when needed. He even had to stop by for a little advice a time or two. His name crops up in some pretty good stories. One of Rearden's stories was linked to earlier on this site. Bethel still has the old fashioned community spirit which has gone missing from some of the more modern small towns of America. Here, when a young person accomplishes something, many people like to take part of the credit. That's because many take part in helping raise the young folks, and to be fair they tend to share in the failings as well.
The book is a product of Don's youthful experiences in the Delta. He got around a lot, kept his eyes and ears open, and appreciated what was here. Not every kid who grows up here feels the same way. The rugged weather, stark landscape and human struggles that abound in the YK Delta sour many people. Early on it was apparent Don wasn't one of them. He clearly enjoyed his time out of doors, and appreciated the chance to see how the local Native culture functioned. He always relished the Native version of sci fi, and it seems he even got in a little trouble once for making light of a Native legend.
Don's deep respect for the Kuskokwim region shines through in this well written account of life here after the supplies stop coming. It is a theme that many have thought about after living at the end of America's supply line for a while. Most of the essentials of modern life come by boat or airplane, and they come a long way. There is little question that in time of serious calamity, areas like Bethel would be the first to be scratched from the list. Small population, long distance, and a subsistence tradition would all cause government officials to think there was a better way to conserve limited resources than send them to Bethel.
The book is a thoughtful study of what might happen. The story is not pretty, and neither would it be. Life reduced to basic survival for a population who no longer has the basic survival skills needed would be brutal. But Don manages to weave a tale that is not all brutal. There is still some love and compassion to be found, and resourcefulness still counts. That would be important to Don, who always valued that latter trait in a person.
What will impress any reader with knowledge of the Delta landscape is the attention to detail displayed in the book. There are a few folks around who have spent a great portion of their time moving around the Bethel area. A challenge goes out to any of those folks to find one geographic error in Raven's Gift. Don is just as careful in his attention to local customs, language, and weather patterns. The book is hard to put down for anyone from here, and from early reviews, others are finding it gripping as well.
Don has published earlier stuff, some of which would qualify more as warm up work than anything. This is some real writing. There aren't a lot of accomplished writers in Alaska. However many there are, the number just grew by one. He immediately becomes the top writer ever produced in the YK Delta, and thus it is fitting that his first novel depicts that area. He is already at work on his next novel, and it seems obvious someone will take a hard look at Raven's Gift for a movie. Will he wear a Kuskokwim 300 hat to the Oscars?
Visit Don's website where you can read the first chapter of The Raven's Gift.
Reviewed by Myron Angstman, who is biased. He received a free autographed copy of the book, is mentioned in the book, and hopes to be the author's lawyer when he hits the big time.