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A sustainable approach to future borough leadership

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For a decade now I have tenaciously worked as an advocate, educator and community organizer by focusing on energy, food and zero waste as cornerstones of growing local living economies. Prosperous environments where culture is a profitable form of commerce and Mother Nature is seen as a strategic business partner and not just another cost of doing business. With annual solar tours, resilient city summits and innovations in recycling, I have endeavored to build bridges between where we are now and the unlimited potential we possess as a people to trek into new frontiers and boldly expand our distant horizons.

As a proud progressive “Green for Life,” I want to address the conservative community I seek to serve. We are called to be good stewards of the Earth, to each other and are all responsible for what comes next. I am not interested in talking about what’s causing the climate to become more violent because I am focusing solely on how we as a species are going to adapt and thrive for generations on a rapidly changing planet. My goal is to work toward ensuring that seven generations from now, the Interior is still a good place to raise a family. The energy agenda creates jobs and brings the industry into the future by recognizing carbon fibers is to lumber like coal is to firewood. We can burn coal, but it is far more profitable to build with it. A swift transition to a hydrogen economy, which can utilize existing infrastructure, lowers the cost of energy and empowers a diverse business community of artisans and innovators to broaden our tax base as the means by how we lower the cost of living and improve the quality of life for all.

The food sovereignty agenda utilizes current technology, with traditional agriculture, and cultural foraging to connect us as individuals with the land, with the community, and with the spirit we so desperately attempt to fill with “stuff.” Sovereignty is distinguished by local control of the means of production. This system’s approach looks at the entire food economy leading to innovation in how we can have regular access to nutrient dense fresh foods all year long while creating living wage jobs for farmers. Turning the Polaris into a 3D printed vertical farm will turn heads and create a new “wonder of the world” people will flock to see. This leads to fully emergent cultural experiences commonly known as geo-tourism.

Finally, in nature there is no term for waste. In a closed loop nutrient cycle everything changes as needed to serve its purpose. We can utilize the latest technologies to begin mining our landfill for precious minerals and use it to create a stable manufacturing base, made possible by upgrading our power grid. We can demonstrate, at scale, the solutions for bringing back the local blacksmith as the base for many local living economies throughout Alaska. In addition to being a cultural hub, the leadership of Fairbanks could provide tremendous aerospace research into habitation and the development of intentional communities thriving in extreme environments.

In his recent visit to Fairbanks, Gov. Dunleavy pointed out we are in a new world. As with many points that define human history, our reality is forever changed by Covid-19 and there is no going back. In drafting the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy there are tremendous amounts of opportunities for using equity, resilience and climate action as the core of modern urban planning to lower taxes by generating new revenue from a thriving business environment that supports the principles and values we want to pass along to future generations. As the only Eco-districts Accredited Professional in the state, I believe I am uniquely qualified to break trail into this new frontier.

Most importantly, this “progressive” approach is key to attracting private equity investors who recognize the enormous long-term profits to be gained from a healthy planet and her people. They want a return but are not looking to control our assets, our choices, or our destiny. Even the “eco” tools I bring provide options and choices we haven’t had before, including ways to pay for infrastructure, workforce development, and essential services that enable us to become the next version of our best selves.

In choosing the next mayor of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, on Oct. 5 please vote for Robert Shields.

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