• Measuring Progress toward Urban Sustainability: Do Global Measures Work for Arctic Cities?

      Berman, Matthew; Orttung, Robert W. (MDPI AG, 2020-05-03)
      The International Organization for Standardization recently responded to a growing global interest in cities by developing an index for measuring urban sustainability (ISO 37120). We address how well this standard applies to Arctic cities, and potential modifications that might improve its performance. After briefly discussing the goals of sustainability indicators, we examine the extent to which Arctic cities’ remote location, cold and changing climate, and thin, largely resource-based economies may create different sustainability challenges. We then critically examine the content of ISO 37120 and the context in which it was created. We place the index within a broader discussion of urban sustainability indicators and examine the extent to which it really addresses sustainability. We then analyze how well the ISO 37120 accounts for the characteristic features of Arctic cities that produce unique sustainability challenges. Our findings show that only half of ISO 37120′s 128 indicators actually measure future-oriented concerns. We suggest that, while the ISO 37120 may be a useful starting point in quantifying Arctic urban sustainability, the index should only be used as a foundation for a more in-depth analysis. To better represent Arctic cities, the ISO 37120 would need to include indicators that situate cities within their regional contexts, addressing both remoteness and the underlying basis of the Arctic city economy. The index should also measure the role of Indigenous populations, and chart the extent to which cities are working to increase levels of sustainability.
    • Stoking the flame: Subsistence and wood energy in rural Alaska, United States

      Schmidt, Jennifer I.; Byrd, Amanda; Curl, Jennifer; Brinkman, Todd J.; Heeringa, Krista (Elsevier BV, 2021-01)
      Energy costs are large and increasing in rural Alaska communities, so communities are turning to renewable energy. While, many of these communities have a mixed subsistence-cash economy, the relationship between renewable energy and subsistence has not been studied. Tanana, Alaska has a biomass program and we conducted interviews with 61 households in 2017 to understand how residents perceive the program and its association with subsistence activities. We analyzed Alaska Department of Fish & Game subsistence surveys from 89 communities to estimate differences in subsistence harvest between households that harvest wood and those that do not. Interviews indicated that people who harvest wood for the biomass program were six times more likely to engage in subsistence. Subsistence harvests were nearly double (184 kg/per capita) in households that harvested wood for personal use versus those that did not (101 kg/per capita). Equipment used for both activities was similar, and 57% respondents combined wood harvesting with other activities (e.g. subsistence, travel, etc.). Higher household incomes and employment were positively associated with subsistence participation (p < 0.001) while only household incomes was positively associated with wood harvest through the biomass program (p < 0.001). Overall, the program was perceived as having a positive effect (69%) for the community because it has created jobs (36%), saved people money (23%), promoted sharing (16%), and reduced fuel use by the community (15%). Our research shows that biomass programs have the potential to complement subsistence activities and enhance the sustainability of communities in rural Alaska that are faced with high energy costs.