I was doing an interview for a story today and the person mentioned the idea of "stresses" in a persons life. For instance, darkness, alcohol, or isolation might be environmental stresses that together lead a depressed person to commit suicide.
I bring the idea up because I think it might help explain some of what is going on in southwest Alaska, whether it's snowmachine bandits or a cab-driver shot at point-blank range in Bethel.
Life has never been easy in rural Alaska, at any time or for any generation. But there are increasing stresses on the lifestyle in this region. Consider some of them:
- The cost of electricity is going through the roof, as is the cost of heating oil, gas, and so forth.
- Those rising costs make the cost of other necessities, like groceries, a lot higher as well.
- The elimination of revenue-sharing has made cities more dependent on property taxes or sales taxes, which further squeezes citizens.
- The weather is distinctly changing and that's changing lifestyles as well. Elders and others recognize changes in migration patterns and sea ice and that affects the foundations of a way of life.
- Stronger storms are leading to increased erosion in a lot of communities.
- There's a sense (though this is not new) that rural Alaska might be politically powerless, closing off a potential route to help address some of these problems.