May 12, 2010

'Dry' villages and male power

During my interview for this class I asked the 21 year old female Mekoryuk Alaskan Native her view on keeping her village ‘dry’. She responded by being very stern in her view of keeping the village dry. Her past experiences completely constructed her perception, and because she has personally experienced the negative effects of alcohol she never wants to see the village become wet/damp. She provided me with a stack of papers she had written on the topic and due to what she has experienced in the village – she could not even picture what would come of the village if alcohol was legal.
Even though people still import hard liquor such as R & R into the village, she believes the impact would be devastating if it was legalized. With the ban of alcohol on the village it creates black markets. My interviewee described this market as being one controlled by the middle aged bachelor men, who often provided to the younger females. This can create conflict with the elders in the village, because they do not want the middle aged men distributing alcohol to the young girls in the village. It also often results in rape and abuse to these young women who usually do not report the events. They are taught at a young age to ‘just go with it’ because they do not have a voice within the village. Also getting a trooper into the village takes days and often does not resolve the issue that occurred.
Looking at the stories she shared with me I noticed a trend of conflict theory on many different levels. These groups in the village are in continual conflict, although it is hidden. The girls who “just go with it” and get raped are often stuck in the village raising their child. The male powers over the females within the village created dominate groups that organize this black market to help keep their control. Their power over the young females oppresses them into not reporting problems, and continues the male dominance. Even though this seems harsh, I believe it is in result to the other layer of conflict theory I saw in her stories.
The Western ideologies that were enforced by organizations such as ANCSA have created this multilayered society that lives in the village. Congress insisted on economic development and growth of their land to improve social and economic conditions. ANCSA was written in Western-adopted ways, and has a business nature view land as collateral. This new ideology on the land and life trickled down to the people of the village. The impact of the Western views changed these villages. Patriarchy was present in the past, although now it has a black market to live in.
My question is would legalizing cause more harm than good on the village? Many sociologist believe the legalization of drugs in America would be beneficial because they would be able to monitor the drugs better, and slowly get rid of the black markets. However rural life is different than city life, so I can not help but want to listen to the girl who came from the village.

May 11, 2010

Tourism is a large factor in Alaska. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in the article "Senator Mark Begich promotes Alaska tourism," tourism brings in about $2 billion for Alaska each year. In the Summer I work in Valdez as a crew member for a wildlife and glacier cruise company. I have been working for the same company for the past 5 years, so the impact tourism has had on my employed life is quite large. The article discusses that with the economic decline, tourism is suffering a slide of it's own. To help resolve the problem, according to the article, Senator Mark Begich has introduced a bill. Within the article it is stated that "The Travel Regional Investment Partnership Act would allow the Department of Commerce to create a competitive matching grant program that would award marketing money to hot spots such as resorts and parks." This is good news for hot spots within Alaska, but what about smaller rural areas that still depend on tourism, but are not popular enough to meet the bill's standards? I do think this is a step forward, but I still believe more needs to be done in order to maintain a solid tourism structure throughout all of Alaska.
Although it might be vague in the ways that it applies, I think that the conflict theory could be a factor in the decline of tourism. Tourism is competitive in that it usually consists of companies that offer the same or similar services. For example, there is much competition in the cruise industry. In Prince William Sound alone, there over five companies that offer glacier and wildlife tours within the three larger communities (Valdez, Cordova, and Whittier), and this does not even include the gargantuan cruise companies that enter the area (i.e. princess tours, and holland america). With the money given to the areas considered hot spots, I believe the less successful areas will begin to fall at the hands of those companies that do receive money from the Travel Regional Investment Partnership Act.

Representing Rural Alaskans

This November Alaskans will have the chance to vote to add 6 more legislators to Alaska's house and Senate. The size of Alaska's population is twice as large as it was when Alaska was made a state, but the number of legislators has never been changed. The purpose of the amendment is not necessarily to address the change in the size of the population, but rather the distribution of the population. An estimated 80% of Alaska's population resides in 6 major urban areas, and this trend of urban migration has stretched district boundaries to extreme sizes, decreasing the effectiveness of representation. It is unknown at this time whether or not passing the amendment will increase the political power of rural areas, but it should at least result in more accurate representation of rural populations. The power issue will be decided by the next reapportionment commission, and it will be interesting to see what they decide. One way or another, the decisions will be influenced by social ideologies of rurality. Perhaps urban voters will choose not to increase the size of the legislature; being the dominant group, they may not be concerned by distorted rural districts because they don't have to know or care. Perhaps it will pass, and then reapportionment will give more relative power to rural voters because we hold a romantic value towards rural areas. Either way, social ideologies are at work and affecting the lives of rural Alaskans. And don't forget to vote!

Drinking not just a problem in rural Alaska

"Public drinking arrests rise in Fairbanks" was published in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on May 9th and it interests me because I work at the ER Admissions desk and we see A LOT of intoxicated patients. So it makes me wonder if Fairbanks has more of a drinking problem then some of the rural villages? The article states that one officer arrested 10 people in one day because they were intoxicated (among other things) and this is an increase from the winter. So why do we have so many people that a intoxicated in public? Is it because people normally drink inside, then decide to come outside because of the nice weather? Are people coming in from the wet/damp/dry villages and getting hammered? From my personal experience, majority of the intoxicated individuals that come in are 1) homeless 2) native 3) visiting from a village 5) jobless 6) lost their family and friends because of their alcoholism.

Using the Critical Power Conflict Theory, it seems like the intoxicated people are powerless because they are not able to control their addiction (especially if they are coming in from a village), so then who is in power? I would think that sober individuals are in control, only because they are functional members of society and are not getting arrested for public intoxication, DUI's, etc. Our society (Fairbanks) is in constant conflict with the drunks and are trying to oppress them, especially in the summer!

I think Fairbanks will always have some type of problem, if we took all the alcohol away, then we would have problems with drugs, if we took drugs away, we would have problems with guns, etc. So with this being said, I think we are always going to have group conflict with the "lesser" group because we don't agree with what they are doing.

A future oil spill for Alaska?

"Environmentalists to Argue Against Arctic Drilling" was published by the Fairbanks Daily News Miner on May 6th and it basically says that Earthjustice wants Alaska / US to reconsider drilling up north because of the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. While reading this article it made me think "what if we did have an oil spill up North?" and I automatically knew that it wouldn't be pretty; the environmentalists would blame the greedy oil companies, etc.

I guess there are two different sides to this story in that environmentalists want what is best for our environment and our animals that inhabit our beautiful Alaska land, and some Alaskans, the US, and the oil companies want oil and money. The social paradigm being used in this article is Critical Power Conflict Theory because the groups in our society are in continual conflict and it seems as if the oil companies have more power than the environmentalists. The oil companies are trying to gain control over the scarce resource, oil, and oppress the environmentalists. The oil companies are trying to explain themselves and justify why they should disrupt our land to get this oil... I'm pretty sure if we were to ask one of the oil companies (BP) they would say that the chance of having an oil spill is so slight, blah, blah, blah. But when it comes to reality, the possibility is very high and it just happened a few weeks ago in the Gulf of Mexico.

Bethel Drinking

In Rhonda McBride’s May 2010 article “Children dying for a drink: A Young Start to Links of Suicide,” alcohol use by youths in Bethel is being highlighted due to the vote in progress restricting alcohol in Bethel, Alaska. Alcohol in Bethel has traditionally been restricted over the previous decade, but in November the restriction was repealed. It now looks as if the city might be re-implementing the decade long restriction. The results of the vote are expected May 11, 2010.
Rhonda McBride’s KTUU Channel 2 News article describes how youth in Bethel often start drinking at ages that might be rather unprecedented. The article explains the situation from Bethel emergency room director Matt Greenberg’s personal experiences. Alcohol has historically been a rampant social problem in Alaska. The irresponsible use of alcohol often can be linked to bigger problems underlying a community with high alcohol related problems. Social forces often can be an indicator and can lead to potential solutions.
Using the sociological conflict perspective I analyze the issues of culture clash between capitalist ‘greater America’ culture and that of traditional Native Alaskan culture. Values are in conflict and have grown incompatible between the two cultural perspectives. I believe this puts pressure on Native Alaskan’s and the political process that implement policy and regulation in the region. This cultural squeezing can create a malaise in a community and in that of the individual.

May 10, 2010

Polar Bear Patrols

Since the artic ice is losing a battle against global warming, polar bears are now having to change their direction inland to find food and space to live. With this increase in Polar Bear activity coastal villages far in the north of Alaska have developed Polar Bear patrol programs to protect villagers from the possible threat of attack. The probability of an attack taking place is high, as Polar Bears are known for their unpredicatable behavior. So it is probably a good plan that these patrols are taking place. At this point the Polar Bears are protected under law and are on the endangered species list. They can only be killed if human life is involved and at risk of being injured or killed. But Polar Bear attacks have remained a very rare occurence for Alaskans in the past. But with their hunting grounds melting away, Polar Bears may soon become a more frequent problem for Alaskan villages and residents. It may soon come to a point were some of these Polar Bears may have to be eliminated so that rural residents can remain feeling secure and safe. Conflict theory can be applied here with adherence to power and staying in control. The moment these communities begin to feel not in control, the animals may be the ones to suffer. Some serious changes are going to be taking place within the Artic habitat as ice continues to melt. Humans and animals alike are going to feel these effects and most will have to compromise with these changes. Rural communities are having to adapt to this change taking place, Polar Bear Patrols are just the beginning of a possible Polar Bear decline. Part of this decline will be a direct result of human safety, and human reasoning will be applied to help resolve the Polar Bear issue with serious consequeces for the Artic animal. But I also like to stay optimistic and scientists will hopefully find a way to make things better, and somehow find solutions for the Polar Bear population without harm.