Target: Dana Fabe, Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court
Goal: Help Nelson Kanuk defend his land by asking the Alaska Supreme Court to hear his climate change case
Nelson Kanuk lives in a remote area of western Alaska near the Kugkaktlik River, seven hours from the nearest town. Experts say that within two years, his home will be destroyed thanks to melting permafrost, a result of global warming. Permafrost usually prevents Kanuk’s home from washing away by keeping the Kugkaktlik riverbank intact each year when the winter ice melts. In the last year, Nelson has watched thirteen feet of his yard disappear into the river. Nelson’s family has lived on this land for generations.
Kanuk is 18 and still a high school student, but he has decided to take a proactive stance to defend his family’s land. With the help of Oregon-based non-profit Our Children’s Trust, he is suing the state of Alaska, insisting that leaders do more to protect the environment. He wants the Alaskan government to develop a concrete climate recovery plan to reduce carbon emissions.
This court case is not unprecedented. It follows in the footsteps of a similar case filed by two young girls in Oregon last year. They also asked the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Like the girls in that case, Kanuk was not taken seriously, and both cases were dismissed from court. However, Kanuk will appeal to the Supreme Court in hopes of keeping his case alive. Legal experts point out that Alaska Governor Sean Parnell supports large oil companies and their ambitions, has halted the state’s existing climate change initiatives, and is unlikely to legislate in favor of environmentalists. However, Kanuk has an array of supporters throughout the country. Ask Alaska’s Chief Justice to hear his case in the Supreme Court.
Dear Justice Fabe,
Nelson Kanuk and his family have lost 13 feet of their land in the last year due to the melting of permafrost in their rural Alaskan home near the Kugkaktlik River. This piece of land has been in the Kanuk family for generations, and they watch it wash away down river with no hope of protection or recompense. The loss of the Kanuks’ land is clearly a result of climate change, yet the Alaskan government has only decreased its focus on climate issues in recent years. Now the Kanuk family wants the right to defend itself against their loss of land and the lack of environmental recovery programs in the state government.
Nelson Kanuk has filed suit against the state of Alaska for refusing to legislate climate recovery programs throughout the state, thereby causing direct harm to families like his. Mr. Kanuk’s case has already been dismissed from lower courts, and he is now appealing to the Alaska Supreme Court for recognition of his case. I ask that you hear his case in the Alaska Supreme Court and give him a chance to defend his ancestral heritage – his land – from powerful, moneyed lobbyists who would destroy Alaska’s environment at his family’s expense.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Evb-wiki via Wikimedia