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How one Unalakleet teen is advocating for a green future

“I really want to show people that if we move away from resource extraction, there’s many jobs for people to have revolving around renewable energy. We could move towards a different kind of future. What would our future look like if it were more oriented towards the greener option?”

Maiyuraq Lauryn Nanouk Jones was awarded The Spirit of Youth Discovery Award, which highlights youth in science with a specific focus on environmental issues. Jones is majoring in environmental policy with minors in environmental justice, education, social justice and hopes to attend law school.

She had the opportunity to advocate for renewable energy projects on a statewide level. She says when the community comes together, it helps everyone’s bills go down.

“If you buy into community solar, it helps reduce the prices for people who are paying for electricity. It’s also a way to help sustain our way of life. Renewable energy resources are great for the environment, and that’s something they care about.”

But renewable energy is just one of Jones’ focus. 

Growing up in Unalakleet, a village of about 700 people, subsistence was a large part of her childhood and Inupiaq culture. She noticed that the caribou of the Western Arctic Herd were no longer visiting the community. Fish numbers and other subsistence food sources were less abundant. Jones blames resource extraction, like mining and oil drilling, for the decline.

Jones’ future goals are to help communities throughout Alaska deal with the effects of climate change, figure out how to combat climate change effectively, and understand the changing ecosystems. 

Image at the top: Portrait of Maiyuraq Lauryn Nanouk Jones, used with permission.

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