Commentary: A wake-up call for Cordova from The Sunset View

Cartons of Darigold milk sit in the refrigerator at Nichols’ Backdoor Store on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Owner, Dan Nichols, purchases the milk from Sam’s Club. Walmart announced the closing of Sam’s Club branches nationwide, including the three Alaska locations. Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times
Cartons of Darigold milk sit in the refrigerator at Nichols’ Backdoor Store on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times

By David Otness
For The Cordova Times

I had a quick little email exchange with Alaska state Sen. Gary Stevens this week that left me feeling better about a troubling situation that has rapidly grown up around us. Better. But not resolved to full satisfaction.

I write this while hoping most if not all Cordovans are aware of the very real impending serious food shortages coupled with inflation that are in our immediate future, but if not, at least Sen. Stevens and the Legislature indicate they are so aware.

The point of my inquiry to the senator was regarding an earlier than usual dispensation of PFDs and the emergency energy assistance bill as well, in light of the unprecedented twin crises that have fallen upon us in a double whammy, and he assured me that this was being discussed already on both sides of the aisle with positive signs of assured passage most likely.

While a specific date was not mentioned, it should be substantially earlier than October, I’m hoping for ASAP as this problem continues to manifest worldwide during this crop growing season.

We can at least be somewhat ahead of the game by having shopping money in our hands while supplies — especially grain and grain products — are still available, because believe me, there will be shortages of many things we take for granted. That’s as in perhaps unavailable.


We don’t know yet if adequate fertilizers will be on hand for the U.S. planting season (that’s now,) many people in the know are already very much concerned as Russia is the world’s largest supplier of industrial scale farming fertilizer and I think most are aware of the geopolitical difficulties this presents.

There is some relief for North America from Canada’s potash (fertilizer) resources, but whether its production can be ramped up in time, this I don’t know. But the extra cost premiums to U.S. farmers is going to skyrocket, is skyrocketing. And those costs are inevitably borne by us.

For a sense of the gravitas of this moment, even the White House made a statement regarding this impending crisis almost a month ago, yet I have heard nothing of consequence since, nor even any local buzz when it should be on everyone’s radar, looking as it does like an imminent collision in the bright sunshine. If only we see when we look. Unfortunately, the fog of faraway war seems to have impaired this country’s vision for matters of life and death right here in our own front yard.

So, I’m saying it’s up to us. We’re going to see things previously never imagined in this country and I’d say to overcome this impending crisis we’re going to have to address it as a community, not just as individuals scrambling around in desperation. Perhaps the City Council can visualize the very real problems we’re facing and get people organized under official and organized auspices before this problem comes down hard? Because it’s growing like a storm front coming at us in our especial kind of vulnerability we are exposed to living here in the “boondocks.”

In the meantime, we have dedicated gardeners in this community and at least one viable indoor commercial vegetable growing operation, but unless massively ramped up overnight, and having products of a larger variety, we should, if wise, learn to grow our own — and pronto.

There is not much we can do about grain/flour availability here other than to buy up as much as possible at its already highly-inflated prices — that is, if it can still be purchased in these next few months. It’s already up by 33% wholesale. This would be my advice — to get a community storehouse going, perhaps pooling the state money we get according to our individual ability to chip in for wholesale prices? Can we do this? Are we willing to do this?

I’m sorry to be dropping such a bomb here; but somebody had to play Cassandra and bear the bad news now rather than later. We’re in for hard times, something we’ve never collectively had to confront, and I’d much rather see its effects minimized at less than drastic, rather than dealing too late with a genuine humanitarian deprivation catastrophe. Right here in Cordova in the year 2022 — and while unfortunately looking forward to more years of uncertainty. Am I being heard?

David Otness is a retired commercial fisherman and merchant mariner, a 70-year Alaskan with over 15 years as a Cordova and now Sunset View Apartments resident.