Forging connections through a “Geography of Hope”

For many of us, Alaska represents what author Wallace Stegner called “the geography of hope,” a place that captivates and inspires millions who feel our country is richer for having truly wild, vast and largely intact landscapes where herds of healthy wildlife still roam freely. Where Indigenous peoples live in deep harmony with the land and where the great spirit of adventure can be tested amidst some of the highest peaks and glaciers on Earth.

It was with this in mind that we launched our Geography of Hope series in early May, a collection of virtual events and experiences seeking to connect our wild Alaska advocates and supporters to writers, photographers, adventurers and filmmakers in a celebration of the lands, waters, wildlife and cultures we all care so deeply about.

Over the course of the series, hundreds of supporters have joined us for these live events exploring Alaska from the Arctic Ocean and northern coast, down through its vast and varied interior, and ending in the temperate rainforest of the Tongass National Forest. Filmmaker Kristin Gates, joined by Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee, shared her experiences traveling the Arctic Refuge and time learning from the Gwich’in through highlights from her film “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” Caroline Van Hemert, author of “The Sun is a Compass,” took us along on her 4,000-mile coast-to-coast trek across Alaska. Artist Michael Boardman shared his sketches and anecdotes from his time spent as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Artist-In-Residence for the Arctic Refuge during the summer of 2019 as well.

Scientist and adventurer Caroline Van Hemert shares images and stories from her trek across the state of Alaska.

And as our series headed south, two members-only events provided a unique opportunity to thank our contributing members for their continued support. Author and founding board member of the League, Debbie Miller, transported our members to the sights and sounds of glacier-carved fjords and lush forests in Prince William Sound. And in an exclusive preview screening, filmmaker Mark Titus presented his documentary film “The Wild,” an urgent call to action to protect the beauty of Bristol Bay, Alaska, and its unparalleled salmon runs from the proposed Pebble Mine.

Michael Boardman offers insights and illustrations from his time as Arctic Refuge Artist-in-Residence.

As our series wrapped up, accomplished sailor and photographer David Thoreson presented on his decade of sailing and exploring the waters of the Arctic, his time spent in the Arctic Refuge, and the changes he has witnessed over the years in this region due to climate change. And finally, author and photographer Amy Gulick took us through Tongass National Forest, sharing highlights from her most recent book, “Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.”

David Thoreson presents on his decade of sailing and exploring the waters of the Arctic aboard his boat the Ocean Watch.

During each event, we were heartened by the engaging, thoughtful questions and responses we received from supporters in all parts of the country (and the globe, including India!). As the Zoom grid filled our computer screens with names and faces both familiar and new, and as the participant lists grew throughout the series, we felt increasingly close to our family of supporters and a little less socially distant at the end of each event. We like to think that those who joined us did too.

This summer, we are taking a brief pause in the series in order to map out the next stages of Geography of Hope. We are also working to bring you new opportunities to engage with other League supporters and accomplished speakers throughout this summer, so stay tuned for announcements of events coming to your inbox soon!

In the meantime, we encourage you to view recordings of past events on our series web page and reach out to us at if you have questions about these events or suggestions for future presentations.