Peer Listening: Building resilience in communities affected by human-caused disasters

Community Corner

Until 2010, the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was the largest oil spill disaster in U.S. waters. That March, people around the world turned on the news to see our devastated wildlife and beaches. No one doubted that the environment of Prince William Sound and other downstream areas were hurt. What was not apparent to almost everyone was the short and long term damage to the people in the region’s communities.

Residents of Cordova attend the premier Peer Listener Training in Cordova in the early 2000s.

Technological disasters, such as an oil or chemical spill, a nuclear accident, or a large building fire or collapse, affect communities differently than natural disasters. A technological disaster is caused by humans, and there is a person or persons who can be blamed for the incident. Natural disasters have no one to blame. Natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, can often be predicted and prepared for. Technological disasters are often unexpected.

After the Exxon Valdez spill, the council funded research on how technological disasters affect people living in the area compared to natural disasters.

Read morePeer Listening: Building resilience in communities affected by human-caused disasters

Listening to downstream concerns

By Lisa Matlock
Outreach Coordinator

Vern Hall, Mark Swanson, Lisa Matlock, Al Burch, Bill Burch at ComFish 2015. Photo by Lynda Giguere.
Vern Hall, Mark Swanson, Lisa Matlock, Al Burch, Bill Burch at ComFish 2015. Photo by Lynda Giguere.

Over the past two months, Executive Director Mark Swanson and I have been traveling as part of the council’s community outreach program to a good number of our downstream communities. The term “downstream” was coined after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, when oil spread across more than a thousand miles of coastline in southcentral Alaska, including the southern Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island. Because of this, when industry works on contingency planning for safe oil transportation through Prince William Sound, the council regularly speaks up for downstream communities and resources that could be affected by an accident. So it is important for us to visit these communities to hear from these citizens about how our mission connects to their priorities and community needs.

Read moreListening to downstream concerns

Revised curriculum educates about oil spill prevention and response

By LISA MATLOCK
Outreach Coordinator

During the summer of 2012, the council hosted a workshop with environmental education professionals from all over Southcentral Alaska, pooling the best oil spill education programs in one place. Katie Gavenus, an environmental educator from Homer, was chosen by the council’s Information and Education Committee to put new activity ideas and the best of the original curriculum together. The resulting 2014 K-12 Oil Spill Curriculum will help today’s students understand the history and science of oil spills in Alaska.

Read moreRevised curriculum educates about oil spill prevention and response