Providing a local voice for setting priorities in Alaska for human health, and social and economic disruptions from spills
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Providing a local voice for setting priorities in Alaska for human health, and social and economic disruptions from spills

  • 2021

  • Source: International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings 2021 (1): 689481
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  • Journal Title:
    International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings
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  • Description:
    As an Alaskan, I remember where I was on March 24, 1989, when I learned about the Exxon Valdez oil spill (EVOS) in Prince William Sound. Little did I know that I would be working on the aftermath and impacts of that oil spill off and on over my career. During college, I worked in a law office in downtown Anchorage. I filed away case notes from plaintiffs who had been impacted by EVOS. I skimmed each one to ensure it was going in the right file, correct order. They were stories of lives disrupted, impacts to health, society, and a way of life, but mostly stories of loss. Many years later, I still remember some of those stories. In 2004, as an early career anthropologist, I traveled to Prince William Sound to administer harvest assessment surveys in Cordova and Chenega Bay. We asked questions about the disruption of the subsistence way of life, about the loss of passing on traditions, and how life had changed. The same questions asked in the same way for many years following the spill. In 2015 I was back in Cordova to administer the same survey. During that second visit, I spent time doing in-depth interviews with community members who could tell me about how life had changed for the community of Cordova. Following the Deepwater Horizon spill, the awareness of how profound technological disasters impact local communities and economies became more evident. We learned from EVOS and Deepwater Horizon that although you can never prepare a community for an oil spill, you can learn to mitigate impacts. In 2019 a workshop was held in Anchorage to bring together coastal residents and agencies in Alaska to discuss protocols for working in local communities and priorities for research. The workshop looked to the past to learn from EVOS and evaluated ideas on how to prepare for the future. This paper provides some of these lessons.
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    International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings 2021 (1): 689481
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    CC BY
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    Submitted
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