Alaska Wilderness League's Geography of Hope series is a collection of virtual events and experiences connecting you to writers, experts, filmmakers and other wild Alaska advocates in a celebration of the lands, waters, wildlife and cultures we all care so deeply about.
Our intent is to lift your spirits, to mentally transport you to the temperate forests and tundra and majestic points in between and, we hope, leave you inspired and feeling connected to others who share a passion about our nation's wildest places and re-energized in the fight to protect them.
We will continue to introduce more events to this series, including some exclusive sessions available to contributing members. As always, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Upcoming Geography of Hope Presentations
September 28, 2021: Tongass Odyssey — Seeing the Forest Ecosystem Through the Politics of Trees
John Schoen, biologist and author of “Tongass Odyssey: Seeing the Forest Ecosystem Through the Politics of Trees,” will pair images from the field with a discussion of his memoir of firsthand experiences from the past four decades studying brown bears, deer and mountain goats, and advocating for conservation of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Together we will enjoy personal and family anecdotes from his field research, unpack a little of the prickly politics of the Tongass, and have a chance to ask questions about his experiences.
John Schoen grew up on an island in the state of Washington and received his Ph.D. from the University of Washington. He has been engaged in Alaska wildlife conservation science for more than 45 years, including 20 years with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and 14 years with Audubon Alaska. His research into Alaska has included ecological studies of brown bears, black-tailed deer and mountain goats in Southeast Alaska’s temperate rainforest. He has also served as an affiliate professor of wildlife biology at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks). John has published more than 50 scientific and popular articles on Alaska wildlife issues and was co-editor and co-author of “North Pacific Temperate Rainforests: Ecology and Conservation” (2013, University of Washington Press). In 2020, the University of Alaska Press published his book “Tongass Odyssey: Seeing the Forest Ecosystem through the Politics of Trees.”
October 19, 2021: Trailblaze 120 Miles of Alaska Wilderness — An Artistic Multi-Media Journey with Max Romey
After years of struggling to see the big picture in a world that prioritizes the written word, dyslexic filmmaker Max Romey found a new artistic lens with which he could better understand the world and his role in helping to protect and celebrate its beauty. In this episode, Max will share his unique connection to the Alaska wilderness and how his journey along a 150-mile forgotten trail helped shape his purpose. You’ll enjoy private sketchbooks, public videos and personal anecdotes that highlight his experiences and efforts to educate people about the beauty of Alaska and the impacts of climate change.
Recent Geography of Hope Presentations
June 15, 2021: The Salmon Way — An Alaska State of Mind with Amy Gulick
Watch the episode here
Intrigued that there are still places in the world where the lives of people and wild salmon are linked, photographer and author Amy Gulick traveled throughout Alaska to explore the web of human relationships that revolve around these extraordinary fish for The Salmon Way. Commercial fishermen took her on as crew; Alaska Native families taught her the art of preserving fish and culture; and sport fishing guides showed her where to cast her line as well as her mind. Alaskans everywhere shared their salmon riches with her in their kitchens, cabins and fish camps — it’s the salmon way. Along the way, Gulick learns that salmon are so much more than fish — they can connect people to a place, a community and to each other.
Amy Gulick is an award-winning nature photographer and writer, and a fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers. Her images and stories have been featured in Audubon, National Wildlife, Sierra, Outdoor Photographer, The New Republic and other publications. Her work in Alaska has received numerous honors including the prestigious Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for excellence in still photography, film or video from the Alaska Conservation Foundation; the Voice of the Wild Award from the Alaska Wilderness League; a Lowell Thomas Award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation; and a Philip Hyde Grant Award from the North American Nature Photography Association. Her previous book, “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest,” won an Independent Publisher Book Award and two Nautilus Book Awards.
June 8, 2021: Silences So Deep — Music, Solitude, Alaska with John Luther Adams
Watch the episode here
In the summer of 1975, composer John Luther Adams, then a twenty-two-year-old graduate of California Institute of the Arts, boarded a flight to Alaska. So began a journey into the mountains, forests and tundra of the far north — and across distinctive mental and aural terrain — that would last for the next forty years. In this Geography of Hope episode, you will hear about John’s special connection with Alaska, what it’s like to live alone in the frozen woods, composing music by day and spending one’s evenings with a raucous crew of poets, philosophers and fishermen. Inspired by his latest book, “Silences So Deep,” we’re sure you’ll enjoy this special treat.
To learn more about Mr. Adams, visit his website here.
Purchase Mr. Adams new memoir here.
May 25, 2021: Explore a Hidden Gem of the Western Arctic, with Rosemary Ahtuangaruak and Debbie Miller
Watch the episode here
Though many have heard of Alaska public lands like the Tongass National Forest, Denali National Park or Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fewer are familiar with a hidden gem in the western Arctic where a treasure trove of wild Alaska experiences awaits. The unfortunately-named National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska was first created as a naval petroleum reserve following World War I but was transferred to the Interior Department for oversight in 1976 and essentially remained as untouched wilderness into the 1990s. These lands have supported Alaska Native communities for thousands of years, including the ancestors of guest speaker Dr. Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a community health aide and Arctic Indigenous scholar from Nuiqsut, Alaska.
Rosemary has held several local leadership positions and is an advocate of community rights considering the oil development occurring near her village. The Reserve's land and wildlife continues to sustain her village while simultaneously providing millions of acres of critical habitat for migratory birds, brown bears, caribou, threatened polar bears, walrus, endangered beluga whales and more. Some of this magnificent wildlife has been featured in the book “On Arctic Ground” by renowned author and League board member Debbie Miller. We hope you can join us as we welcome Rosemary and Debbie for an enlightening hour about the wonders and struggles within the western Arctic. In addition to Rosemary's reflections on protecting the Reserve from unrelenting oil drilling, you'll see powerful images from Debbie's riveting photo-essay book focused on the region, hear how she first met Rosemary, and enjoy other personal stories that cover more than 600 miles of arctic exploration traveling by canoe and on foot along four of the Reserve's wild rivers.
April 21, 2021: Earth Week Special — How Grassroots Efforts have Protected the Arctic Refuge
Watch the episode here
Join us for an Earth Week extravaganza as we celebrate the grassroots efforts that have helped protect the Arctic Refuge from drilling for the past 25+ years. We will be joined by activist and film producer Miho Aida, author and Trent University professor Finis Dunaway and social media influencer Alex Haraus highlighting the improbable story of how the people like you successfully defended the Arctic Refuge for decades.
MIHO AIDA is an athlete, advocate, author and film producer who has taken her award-winning film, “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak,” on bicycle film tours, riding more than 3,000 miles across the country and amplifying the voice of the Gwich’in people calling for permanent protection of the sacred coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Miho advocates for outdoor adventures that are rooted in environmental activism in solidarity with traditionally marginalized communities. She was featured as one of the world’s most adventurous women 2019 in Men’s Journal, as well as the recipient of 2018 NOLS Alumni Achievement Award and the 2017 SHIFT Adventure Athlete Award that recognizes the adventure athlete of the year who best promotes conservation leadership in the United States.
FINIS DUNAWAY is professor of history at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. He is the author of “Seeing Green: The Use and Abuse of American Environmental Images,” which received the John G. Cawelti Award from the Popular Culture Association/American Cultural Association. Finis has spent the past several years researching the history of the Arctic Refuge struggle, including interviewing Gwich’in leaders, scientists, and environmental activists across the continent. He recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post about how the Gwich’in Nation transformed the refuge debate into a struggle for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. His new book is “Defending the Arctic Refuge: A Photographer, an Indigenous Nation, and a Fight for Environmental Justice”—a story of this epic political battle told from the perspective of the grassroots.
ALEX HARAUS is a climate change communicator and backcountry conservationist that lives on the road full-time. He documents and shares his adventurous lifestyle on social media as a hook to encourage audiences to develop an emotional attachment to nature, experience it for themselves and take action to protect it. Most recently, he played an integral role in the fight to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, using TikTok to garner more than 6 million public comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in opposition to seismic exploration on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. This was more participation in just three weeks than any other single public comment period on an environmental rule or permit had received prior.
April 6, 2021: Alaska’s Land, Its People and Global Evolution — An Artist’s Perspective
Watch the episode here
What does Alaska have to share with the world? Through the artist’s perspective, guests Lindsay Carron and Polly Andrews describe the special qualities of Alaska’s land and people that connect us to the earth and its evolution.
NAPIRYUK POLLY ANDREWS (right) is Cup’ik from the villages of Chevak and Lower Kalskag in Southwest Alaska. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Education, with a focus on creating culturally responsive connections to enhance perspectives and positive outcomes between Native and non-Native professionals and community. Additionally, Polly enjoys sharing Cup’ik culture and performing arts through song, dance, story, and spoken word. Today, Polly is mom to three lively children, and their favorite past time includes returning to the village for fish camp and subsistence activities.
LINDSAY CARRON (left) is an artist and educator residing in both Los Angeles and Alaska. In Los Angeles, she works with young children in nature-based learning as a mentor with EverWild. She partners with her local community on murals and creative assets for reducing our environmental footprint. In Alaska, Lindsay has worked for the past five years as an artist in residence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska’s 16 national wildlife refuges. She has also illustrated children’s books with Sealaska Heritage Institute, and taught classes and exhibited her art in Juneau. Her travels have taken her to incredible lands where she has met inspiring people and learned about rich cultural traditions, and these experiences provide the foundation of her cross-cultural and collaborative work with various organizations.
March 16, 2021: Photographic Inspiration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with Chad Brown
Watch the episode here
Chad Brown is an accomplished portrait and adventure photographer, creative director and conservationist. Hear about his visits with local Indigenous communities, the humbling impact of moving silently through a vast open space, and how immersing himself in wilderness has helped him to treat his post-traumatic stress disorder related to military tours in Iraq and Somalia. In this Geography of Hope episode, Chad shares the magic from his journeys to the Arctic, both on his own and with the nonprofit he founded, Soul River Inc. These trips carried a medicinal-like quality, one that helped to heal the soul and mind. The Arctic Refuge is where Chad realized why the Gwich'in people call its coastal plain Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit — The Sacred Place Where Life Begins. Read more about Chad's explorations.
Chad studied communication design and photography at American Intercontinental University before earning his Masters of Science in communication design at the Pratt Institute in NYC. He now resides in Portland, Oregon, where he runs Soul River Inc., the nonprofit organization he founded that brings together at-risk youth and veterans as mentors and takes them into threatened wild spaces, providing mission-driven experiences where advocacy and outdoor education meet. This work has led him to Capitol Hill, advocating for our public lands and wild places, bringing youth leaders of tomorrow and giving them an opportunity to interface with congressional members. He is also a board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Alaska Wilderness League.
Chad has been featured on BBC and CBS, as well as in national publications such as Outside Magazine and The Drake, and in various Pacific Northwest publications. He was the first recipient of the Breaking Barriers Award Presented by Orvis, as well as the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
March 2, 2021: A Shape in the Dark: Living and Dying with Brown Bears
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In “A Shape in the Dark,” Bjorn Dihle blends personal experience with historical and contemporary accounts to fully explore the world of brown bears, from frightening attacks to the animal’s place in Native cultures to the ways habitat degradation and climate change are threatening the species. “A Shape in the Dark” is an elegant and lyrical work that thoughtfully weaves outdoor adventure, natural history and memoir together to present a fresh and vivid portrayal of these fascinating creatures.
BJORN DIHLE is a wilderness and wildlife film guide as well as a contributing editor for Alaska Magazine and Hunt Alaska Magazine, and has been published in Outdoor Life and Sierra Magazine, among others. He is the author of two previous books, “Haunted Inside Passage: Ghosts, Mysteries, and Legends of Southeast Alaska” and “Never Cry Halibut: And Other Alaska Hunting and Fishing Tales.” He lives on Douglas Island in Southeast Alaska with his family.
DREW HAMILTON is an award-winning photographer and bear viewing guide. As president of the board for Friends of McNeil River, Drew fights for conservation of brown bears so that future generations can enjoy this most charismatic of megafauna. For Drew, bears occupy an important role at the intersection of ecology and economics in the state of Alaska, and their conservation is vital to our own future.
*MEMBER EXCLUSIVE* February 23, 2021: Chasing Winter with Debbie Moderow
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Debbie Clarke Moderow, author of "Fast into the Night" will tell stories about her adventures with sled dogs in the context of a warming world. Debbie's journey informs and inspires her presentation about the threat of climate change that is particularly evident in wild Alaska, and what is at stake for us all.
Debbie Clarke Moderow and her husband Mark live in Anchorage and Denali Park, Alaska. Debbie received a BA from Princeton University in 1977, and an MFA in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University in 2013. She ran the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2003 and 2005, completing the race on her second attempt. Part adventure, part love story, part inquiry into the mystery of the connection between humans and dogs, Debbie's memoir won the 2016 National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature and the 2017 WILLA Award in Creative Nonfiction.
Debbie's writing explores her deep and lifelong bonds with animals and wild places. She was named Artist in Residence for Gates of the Arctic National Park in 2019, and is currently participating in a National Science Foundation-funded arts-science-humanities collaboration through the University of Alaska called "In a Time of Change: Boreal Forest Stories." Her current work focuses on her relationship to landscape in the context of change.
September 30, 2020: Sneak peek into "The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness" with Florian Schulz
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Alaska Wilderness League presents award-winning photographer and cinematographer, Florian Schulz. Florian and Tom Campion, founder of the Campion Foundation and tireless advocate for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, will take attendees to the refuge through Florian’s award-winning photos, plus you’ll get a sneak peek into their latest collaboration, a new big screen film set for release in 2021 called “The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness.” Together, we will explore a land that has evolved intact and untamed since the beginning of time, a world few have truly seen.
FLORIAN SCHULZ is a professional wildlife and landscape photographer from Germany whose striking images have garnered international recognition. His photographs have won several awards including in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition and the Banff International Mountain Photography Competition. His 2005 book published by Braided River, “Freedom to Roam: Yellowstone to Yukon,” received an Independent Publisher Award and was named on its list of "Top Ten Outstanding Books of the Year," and in 2008 he was the recipient of the North American Nature Photography Association’s Vision Award. He is a National Geographic photographer and the cinematographer and co-director for a new big screen film with executive producer Tom Campion and the Campion Advocacy Fund entitled "The Arctic: Our Last Great Wilderness," to be released in 2021. Learn more about the film at www.ProtectTheArctic.org.
*MEMBER EXCLUSIVE* September 23, 2020: "A Life Among Polar Bears: Science, Research and the Climate Crisis"
Join us for an evening with Dr. Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for Polar Bears International. He will discuss the decades he has spent studying, researching and working to protect polar bears as they face increasing pressure from climate change. Alaska’s Arctic Ocean and North Slope are critical habitat for polar bears, and Dr. Amstrup will talk about what his science has revealed and the lessons he’s learned in his efforts to protect the bears and our planet, including how polar bears are not yet doomed. In fact, in the December 2010 paper issue of Nature, he and his co-authors showed that preserving polar bears is all about controlling human-caused temperature rise.
Dr. Steven Amstrup earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington (1972), a M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho (1975), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1995). For 30 years prior to joining Polar Bears International, he led polar bear ecology research in Alaska. In 2007, he led a USGS research team in production of nine reports that became the basis for the 2008 decision by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list polar bears as a threatened species.
August 25, 2020: "Raven's Witness: Lessons From a Life in Alaska’s Wilderness"
Before his death in 2019, cultural anthropologist, author, and radio producer Richard K. Nelson’s life’s work focused primarily on the Indigenous cultures of Alaska and more generally on the relationships between people and nature. He spoke both Inupiaq and Koyukon and lived for extended periods in Athabaskan and Alaskan Eskimo villages, experiences which inspired his earliest books. His close-friend and lifelong Alaskan, Hank Lentfer captures Richard's adventures and his life of learning across Alaska in his new book "Raven’s Witness." Join Hank as he shares his stories and times in Alaska’s public lands with the friend fondly referred to as "Nels."
August 5, 2020: Voices on the Forefront: Youth Climate Activists and the Fight to Protect the Arctic Refuge
Join our panel discussion featuring Gwich’in leader Jody Potts, Gwich’in Youth Steering Council member Quannah Potts, and youth activist and writer Maia Wikler. Panelists will share their experiences as advocates at the intersection of the climate crisis, human rights and the Arctic Refuge. Participants will hear firsthand how the climate crisis is impacting Alaska’s people, lands and waters, and the ongoing efforts to raise awareness and action.
May 7, 2020 at 4 p.m. (ET): Highlights from the award-winning short film “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins”
Enjoy video clips, photos and discussion with filmmaker Kristin Gates. The film follows Kristin and Jeremy as they search to find the Porcupine caribou migration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and in so doing, learn from leaders of the Gwich'in Nation about the value of their culture, the importance of the Porcupine caribou herd and its calving grounds on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain, and the continued protection of their sacred land from oil development.
May 12, 2020: The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds with Caroline Van Hemert
Read Caroline's recent article in The New York Times here.
Caroline Van Hemert is a biologist, writer and adventurer whose journeys have taken her from the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean to the swamps of the Okavango Delta. She is the author of “The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds,” which received the 2019 Banff Mountain Book Competition Award for Adventure Travel. Her writing has also been featured in The New York Times, Audubon Magazine, Birding, L.A. Times, Outside Magazine and more. Caroline will present a reading from her book, as well as stories and photos from her time spent trekking in Alaska.
Thursday, May 21: Michael Boardman, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Artist-in-Residence.
Enjoy an in-depth presentation featuring images and videos from Michael Boardman, a member of the Maine Master Naturalist program and the 2019 Arctic Refuge Artist-in-Residence. In spring of 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service selected Michael as its 2019 artist-in-residence for the Arctic Refuge, and he was flown to the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge in June to spend two weeks along the Canning River helping ornithologists study bird migrations to the Arctic tundra. Michael will share his unique experience in an extreme environment, with plenty of artwork and stories about how the migrating birds of the Arctic Refuge connect us all to that endangered landscape.
*MEMBER EXCLUSIVE* May 23, 2020: Debbie Miller explores Prince William Sound
Debbie Miller takes us to glacier-carved fjords and lush forests in Prince William Sound, sharing images and stories from her book, "A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound" (Braided River, 2019) while guiding us through its history. Debbie will also preview a soon-to-be announced 2021 Alaska Wilderness League trip through Prince William Sound (also featuring Debbie as a special guest), offering a unique opportunity to see this amazing wilderness landscape.
*MEMBER EXCLUSIVE* May 30, 2020: Mark Titus and guests present “The Wild”
Filmmaker Mark Titus has created an exclusive access opportunity for Alaska Wilderness League members to access his amazing feature length film “The Wild” before its public release later this year. “The Wild” is an urgent call to action to protect the beauty of Bristol Bay, Alaska, and its unparalleled salmon runs — it is an examination of what it means to save what we love. For millennia, wild salmon have survived ice ages, continental shifts and most recently (and destructively), human beings. Mark's film explores their continued existence in the face of a massive mining project and provides a glint of hope under the surface of malaise we now find ourselves in.
June 2, 2020: Arctic Adventures by Land and Sea with David Thoreson
David Thoreson has spent more than a decade sailing and exploring the waters of the Arctic aboard his boat the Ocean Watch and is the only American sailor in history to transit the infamous Northwest Passage in both directions. He has spent eight days traversing the Arctic Refuge coastal plain on foot and has sailed along its coastline multiple times. Though David comes from Iowa and first ventured out to sea alongside a Minnesota farmer, he has now sailed more than 65,000 nautical miles including an 8,000-mile circumnavigation by sail of North and South America. Join us and learn more about his time spent in the Arctic Refuge and sailing Arctic waters, and the changes he has witnessed over the years in this region.
June 17, 2020: Amy Gulick takes us on a trip to the Tongass National Forest.
Join acclaimed photographer and author Amy Gulick on a journey to one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth – the Tongass rain forest of Alaska. Humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions cruise the forested shorelines. Wild salmon swim upstream into the forest, feeding some of the world's highest densities of grizzlies, black bears, and bald eagles. Native cultures and local communities benefit from the gifts of the forest and sea.
Amy Gulick's book, Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest, is the recipient of an Independent Publisher Book Award and two Nautilus Book Awards.