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Young climate change activist is raising awareness to save his village in Alaska: 'I want it back'

Carl Smith wants the world to know how global warning is affecting the Alaskan winters and the permafrost near his village is thawing.

Young climate change activist is raising awareness to save his village in Alaska: 'I want it back'
Cover Image Source: Youtube | KCET

Global warming has become a crucial issue lately and the young generation is stepping up to save their future on this planet. Like climate activist Greta Thunberg, an Alaskan youngster named Carl Smith is concerned about the winter days getting shorter in rural Alaska. Smith has been living off land just like his parents and grandparents, catching salmon for food and collecting wood to keep warm in winter.


However, the rapid climate change is threatening his Yupik Eskimo family which has thrived for generations. Smith, in his early 20s, has taken up the responsibility of becoming a climate activist to save his Alaskan village. "I wanted to get the word out," Smith told PEOPLE for an Earth Day special interview in 2021. "Nobody really knows what's happening out here in rural Alaska." His Alaskan village, named Akiak, only has a population of 400 people who depend on the Kuskokwin River to catch fish for summer.

Also, they hunt for geese and moose during the spring and fall seasons, which is a part of their staple food. However, the rising global temperature is making the Alaskan winters shorter and as a result, the permafrost near Smith's village is thawing. It, in turn, is causing the water levels in the river to rise and create large waves, eroding the shoreline. Smith claimed they had lost about 100 feet of land due to soil erosion.


"Last summer, it reached 90 degrees and dead salmon were floating down the river," he continued. "The ice used to be so thick you could drive your snowmobile across the river to the other side to go geese hunting. But now, it's starting to be too warm. I want it back the way it was," he said to PEOPLE. His voice was heard in 2019 when he and 15 other teenagers filed a monumental complaint with UNICEF, which charged five countries for violating their rights as children and not taking any initiative to deal with the climate crisis.


"He's experiencing it firsthand. He is watching his life slowly diminish and disappear," Michael Hausfeld, an attorney who was spearheading the complaint, told PEOPLE. "Carl could become an icon for the concept of intergenerational equity, which is an obligation of states to secure a living planet for the next generations." Smith, a high school student back then, had planned to join a training program to be a mechanic or plumber in the future.

Representational Image Source: Pexels | Ron Lach
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Ron Lach

Also, he traveled to New York for the Human Rights Day Summit, where he met fellow activists like Greta Thunberg and Alexandria Villaseñor, who are also part of the landmark complaint. "When I heard the stories from people around the world, I felt like I was with them," he said. "We're experiencing different things, but in a way, it's all the same. I just felt connected to them in some way."

Irrespective of UNICEF's decision on the complaint, Smith remained adamant to work for creating a better future for his generation. "I'm going to keep telling everyone that climate's coming, climate's changing, and it's happening everywhere in the world," he added. "If we don't do anything about it, we won't have a home to live in. I just hope everyone listens."


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