Taking Chances

The last few days have been full of new experiences and adventure, and each day I continue to gain insight into this incredible place. I am seeing all types of landscape around Bethel, including the tundra. Last week a group of girls went out for a walk across the spongy ground to enjoy the fresh air and open skies.

Tundra walk outside of Bethel
Tundra walk outside of Bethel

I am also making an effort to step outside my comfort zone as we dive deeper into this project. I put my journalism skills to the test when I conducted my first in-person, filmed interview. Brian McCaffery, a biologist and director of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, took the time to speak with us about the subsistence culture, conservation and signs of climate change in the region. The Backpack Journalism team read a reflection article written by Brian before we left for Alaska, so we had an idea of what he would have to say but never expected his interview to be so profound.

I, of course, was very nervous to interview Brian because I had never been in this type of sitation before and felt the pressure of expectation. In addition, I really cared about what he had to say and wanted to do the interview justice.

I felt this interview was also a culmination of my journalism education and concern for the environment. In ninth grade, I gave a persuasion speech in my speech class about climate change. I had just watched the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and was blown away by this problem. Now I just chuckle to myself wondering what my classmates thought of this speech and if I actually persuaded anyone.

It’s been seven years since I gave that speech, and my concern for the environment has only increased as little has been done to solve the problem of climate change. The effects are starting to become more noticeable around the world, and now that I am in Alaska, I am in a place where most people believe climate change is happening and are greatly impacted by it.

When interviewing Brian, I asked him about many issues facing the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, including the king salmon fishing restrictions, the conflict between subsistence and environmental protection, and his analysis of climate change. Brian deals with these conflicts on a day-to-day basis as a job but also has a person who has lived in this region for a long period of time. He has a difficult task to try to maintain the natural resources of this region but also support the culture and lifestyle of its people.

I was completely amazed by Brian’s answers to my questions. In the corner of my eye I saw John give a huge thumbs-up to the people in the room, which I take to mean that the interview went well. I am looking forward to going back to listen to it again and seeing how it will fit into our documentary.

I am so grateful to have had this remarkable interviewing experience. If I hadn’t taken a chance and put myself out there, I would not have had the opportunity to talk to someone so knowledgeable and passionate about an issue I care so much about.

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