This an open letter to the residents and businesses of Silicon Valley from Anchorage, Alaska, where the temperature in the Front Range Chugach Mountains today hit 50 degrees and the 49th state’s largest city shone resplendent in the sunshine below.
Climate change is here, and it’s coming there soon. You could well find yourself living in a desert, choking on dust and worrying ever more about water.
We’re here to help.
Southcoastal Alaska is the perfect place for American climate refugees. Instead of worrying about creating more sanctuary cities for those from the south, you could be living in your own sanctuary city in the north where you would be welcomed with open arms.
Alaska could use your brains and your business. The Alaska economy is in a bit of pickle. The black gold that once made Alaskans rich is fading. The natural gas that could power it into a new future is too costly to move to market. The cowboys of the salmon industry are being fenced in by the farmers who can do fish cheaper and some say even better, though residents of the 49th state know there is nothing tastier than a truly wild Alaska sockeye.
If you lived here, you could catch your own. Lots of them if you want. The dipnet limit for Alaska residents fishing the Kasilof or Kenai rivers at the end of a scenic drive 150 miles east and then south from Anchorage is 25 per person with 10 more for each member of your household.
That’s a lot of salmon, enough to put so many in the freezer for winter that you will be able eat salmon until you are tired of salmon.
But wait, there’s more.
No state income tax. Yes, that’s right. No state income tax.
And there are recreational opportunities to die for, although we hope you don’t. Some, sadly, do.
We would advise easing into the Alaska lifestyle. There is something of a learning curve. Anchorage wasn’t kidding when it some years back tried to brand the city as the Big Wild Life.
It was also a play on words. There are big wildlife, or charismatic megafauna as they are sometimes known, all over the place. Only the clawless ones were in evidence today. They seemed to be enjoying the new warmer Alaska that allows them access to food that used to be buried beneath the snow by November.
OK, by now you’re thinking, “Huh, this doesn’t look like such a bad idea, but isn’t Alaska one of those red states full of Trumpsters?”
Yes, Trump carried Alaska in 2016, but only by 23,000 votes. Think about that. If you brought enough of your friends north with you, you could swing the whole state, which is really more multi-colored than red.
There are a lot of folks more Libertarian than anything. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson took 6 percent of the vote in 2016. The only states in which Johnson did better were his home state of New Mexico and North Dakota.
A lot more Alaskans might have voted for Johnson if they’d thought he had a chance in hell of winning. You won’t have any trouble getting along with Alaskans as long as you don’t get carried away telling them how to behave or criticize the Permanent Fund Dividend.
I forget the P-F-D as everyone calls it. That’s the annual, $1,000-plus payment Alaskans get from the government for being Alaskans. You’ll get that too after a year in-country.
Is this starting to sound attractive now that the downsides of Alaska – the cold and the dark – are fading, or at least the cold is fading? Global warming can’t do anything about the dark.
Some people do, admittedly, have a problem with the short days. Some people are vampires.
Does this even matter to a computer geek? There’s no reason you can’t structure your day so that you work when it’s dark and get outside when it’s light. Alaska is a place that really needs lifestyles built around the idea of a midday break – some sort of anti-siesta where instead of napping you venture out into the sunlight to soak up some Vitamin D.
By now, I should probably add, the blood pressure of some Alaskans reading this is sure to be rising. As friendly as Alaskans might be on a one-to-one basis, they’re not so hot on sharing their little piece of paradise with the masses.
Long before Trump appeared on the political scene, Alaskans were talking about a wall along the southern border. The southern border in this case, however, was the U.S./Canada border.
The wall wasn’t to keep the Canadians out. Alaska and Canada have always had a pretty good relationship. The wall was to keep out other Americans in the boom years of the 1980s when Alaska was – percentage-wise – the fastest-growing state in the nation.
Nobody talks about the Alaska wall anymore with the boom days long gone.
Alaska’s population and economy have been flatlining for a half-dozen years, and the prospects for the future don’t look so good short of some new, clean industry. About the only growth industry the state has going for it at the moment is tourism.
There is potential for mining, most notably copper needed for batteries to power the electric everything of the developing electronic economy of tomorrow. But a lot of Alaskans don’t like mines, and you can’t get the minerals out of the ground without mines.
Alaskans talk a lot about how they’d like to be more like Norway, but they clearly don’t realize that Norway, along with having a sizable oil and gas business, has sizable mineral businesses.
Aluminum ($4.2 billion), iron ($1.3 billion) and nickel ($1.2 million) were among Norway’s top-10 exports last year. And then, of course, there were fish, a lot of them farmed salmon. Norwegian exports of fish totaled almost $12 billion.
Alaska exports of fish total about a quarter of that at $3 billion, according to the McDowell Group, a consultancy familiar with Alaska fisheries. Norwegian farmed fish production is continuing to grow. Alaska wild fish production is at maximum sustained yield.
Given all of this, you can see the problem. And given the fact a state needs an economy to survive, Alaskans would surely welcome anyone bringing tech industries north. Tech is clean and profitable.
Tech employees have money. If they have money, Alaskans won’t care about their politics.
If Alaska can’t be Norway, with your help it could be Finland.
“The technology industry is the most important export industry in Finland,” according to Technology Finland. “Technology companies operate in international markets, attracting income to Finland that is paramount to maintaining the welfare state, with operations constituting over 50 percent of all Finnish exports.
“Nearly 300,000 Finns work in technology companies, while a total of around 700,000 people work in the technology sector either directly or indirectly. Responsible for 70 percent of all investment in research and development carried out in Finland, technology companies play a vital role in the future success of the country.”
Finland is a far north land just like Alaska. Its largest city, Helsinki, is at 60 degrees, 10 minutes north latitude. That’s only about 70 miles south of Anchorage at 61 degrees, 13 minutes.
So think about it. You could stay in Silicon Valley and fry, or you could do what intelligent humans have been doing for thousands of years – migrating to the most climatically hospitable locations.
Alaska might be your best bet.
(Editor’s note: Alaska Department of Labor economist Neil Fried, the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2019, deserves credit for first suggesting the idea the 49th state might be able to market itself as a climate refugia, although he credits the idea to his son, Evan, now working in the tech industry in California. Like many other kids who grew up in Alaska, Evan ended up moving to where the jobs are.)