Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Somebody Turned the Heat Off

Ya know, after all that fuss about our last cold snap - and then realizing that while we were all wingeing about it and taking photos and talking about it like we were all 'To Build a Fire' or something, there were people actually having a pretty rough time in parts of our state and no one was really paying attention to THAT - well, I'm not going to go on too much about the fact that it is in fact a WEE bit chillier this morning than last.

Oh, of course now a lot of Outside folks are paying attention. I suspect it has something to do with our vice presidential candidate governor. Our press conferencing having, book deal getting, PAC forming, 'the media is so unfair to me' whining, publicity cultivator in chief?

Has, uh, anyone bothered to tell our governor that the next election isn't until 2012? I mean, suddenly announcing a hiring freeze that isn't exactly a hiring freeze but will look good when you refer back to it in 3 more years, but frankly, I think we have a few more pressing concerns here, right? And a road to Nome? That's what you've got?

Oh, and for those of you who think that the folks on the coast all just ought to get out there and cut some firewood and not whine about fuel prices - perhaps you ought to take a look at one of the maps depicting the extent of the tree line. There are a lot of places in our state that do not have trees.*

And as for getting jobs, well, they have jobs, usually. But when they can't commercial fish for kings, they suddenly have lost their jobs. Worse yet, the money earned fishing kings helps support the subsistence economy - it helps buy the gasoline, fix the boat, etc. That's why it is called a 'mixed wage-subsistence' economy. Less subsistence food put away means you are stuck buying a lot more food from the store. Which is less money for heating oil.

So the news that the next year's king salmon forecast is poor again is that much more of a bummer. Suggestions that people forgo subsistence king fishing for chums are all well and good, that is food on the table, but that will not help buy fuel oil for the next winter.

Does anyone else find it odd that the Bering Sea pollock trawlers can catch and discard as bycatch over 100,000 king salmon per year while the small, community-based fishing effort has to shut down? That we haven't even managed to let enough kings by on the Yukon to meet our treaty obligation to the Canadians?

All so Americans can eat cheap fish sticks?

*That said, and before my sieve-brain drops this idea - hello, pellet stoves! Hello Interior Alaska waste wood products. Perhaps now would be a good time to look at the numbers on producing this type of fuel.


KC said...

Whinging about the temperature, and endlessly taking pictures, commenting, and then commenting on pictures is all part of the great Alaskan navel gazing we do. It's the same reason people own multiple thermometers, and why every conversation this time of year seems to at least mention how the weather is either too cold, too hot, with not enough snow fall, or far too much. I think we need an NHL franchise in state to take our mind off of it. ;)

When I read AlaskanByChoice's post, I mentally placed him or her to the daily NM site, where they're a regular wingnut there. I can only assume they mean going up the river to the nearest, good sized plot of wood to service all three villages' needs. That's only, what, Mountain Village?

Better targeted subsistence fishing won't help with fuel, but it will relieve some of the opportunity cost associated with buying fuel. If you have to buy less food, then you have more money for fuel (etc). It's not much, but that's that. It's enough that it's let some people just barely squeak on by - I heard about a guy further up the Yukon (Anvik? I don't remember) Who did a moose hunt where he used an old trick where you turn the moose cape into a small boat long enough to float the moose back up river so he could save a few gallons of gas.

IanF said...

How do you survive such extreme temperatures? When I read the figures my jaw drops. On the rare occasions when the temperature over here in England falls to -1 celsius the populace (myself included!) moan bitterly and the national infrastructure coughs and splutters to a halt. I guess you Alaskans have to pay a price for the privilege of living in such a beautiful part of the world!

Ian Flindt

David said...

Check out the briquette stoves as well as the pellet stoves, they come in cheaper as they do not need to be so needful of close tolerances in their construction.
Briquettes are easier and cheaper to manufacture as well.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

I got zapped on my blog about the bycatch issue. I did a bit of ranting/sloppy writing in response to your post--the whole concept of bycatch offends me--nothing should go to waste, particularly food. Anyway, Milo Adkison, apparently brand-new to Blogger and a fisheries professor on UAF, was miffed at my apparent demonization of the fishing industry--which I didn't mean to do. Take a look.

CabinDweller said...

I read your post - I get sloppy a bit, too.

And to rectify some sloppiness on my part - I'm not saying that the pollock industry is solely responsible for the tanking of Yukon kings. But I hate to see one group (and the 'little guys' group at that) bear the burden of conservation measures while industry gets to dump 'bycatch' kings.

CabinDweller said...


It's a dry cold.

(Which is a saying that I want some day to have as a bumper sticker.)

Seriously, though, it's very dry here which helps. Also wearing a lot of very warm clothing helps. I'm am a great big cold sissy, in truth.