A University of Delaware professor and United Nations International Resource Panel member is writing a book focusing on Alaska’s response to climate change, and Haines will be featured in one of his chapters.

Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences professor Saleem Ali was in Haines during May going through historical records, and learning how residents are now confronting mining’s current and future impact on the Chilkat Valley.

The book, which will use Alaska as a parable for climate change, will explore how regions that will see the most dramatic changes adapt in the face of physical and economic changes. Ali said he wants the book to be hopeful by showing a path forward for transitioning off fossil fuels. Mining, he says, is an alternative livelihood as oil and gas resources become depleted. He said he also plans to write about indigenous communities, and the disagreements among indigenous people about such a trajectory. He plans to focus on how Haines residents navigate such a path.

“Haines is particularly compelling because it’s got different pathways,” Ali said. “I am thinking of opening the chapter by saying: Here’s a community that has all these different choices in terms of its economic development. It’s got the cruise industry that could be developed. It has a fishing industry. There is also now the service sector economy with the internet and people working from home. And then there is mining and forestry. I’ll lay it out in that way and try to weave in those narratives about how people are thinking about those choices.”

Ali combed through the Sheldon Museum’s archives to understand how the mining industry has ebbed and flowed in the Chilkat Valley.

Ali describes himself as an “environmental pragmatist” who believes residents would be best served by letting Constantine Metal Resources complete its exploration phase and develop its feasibility study before deciding whether a potential mine is worth the risk. He cited the Pebble Mine permit in Bristol Bay, which was ultimately rejected after its total impact and footprint was understood.

“We should at least allow those studies to continue and then people can vet the science and make those decisions accordingly, but it shouldn’t be a presumption up front that we should oppose it come hell or high water,” Ali said. “It’s possible that the science comes out and the environmentalists in Haines may well be right that this is just too difficult and the mitigation measures and models show the risk is too high. Let’s at least give it a chance.”

Ali is critical of mining opponents who consume metals that he says are often produced in areas with fewer regulations and cause greater environmental impact than in developed countries with more stringent regulations.

“The reality is we need a lot of metals for the green energy transition. Purely on an environmental ground, if you’re concerned about planetary indicators then it makes sense to share the burden of environmental harm also,” Ali said. “We shouldn’t just be exporting pollution and having those mines be in Brazil or other countries because we don’t want to deal with it. As an environmental scientist, my goal should be what’s good for the planet as a system. The planet is a system. We can’t just get parochial about just my little patch.”

Ali has authored many books on the subject of mining and its impact across the world including “Mining, the Environment, and Indigenous Development Conflicts,” “Africa’s Mineral Fortune: The Science and Politics of Mining and Sustainable Development,” “Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements,” and “Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future.”

The latter book asks if the world would be a better place if human societies were able to curb their desires for material goods. It explores the history of consumption and materialism and argues that disavowing consumption is unlikely to help in planning for “a resource-scarce future, given global inequality, developmental imperatives, and our goals for a democratic global society.” Ali proposes a new “environmental paradigm” that accepts humans’ innate need to consume for cultural and developmental reasons, but warns of the naturally coexisting need to conserve resources.

Ali earned his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Masters of Science from Yale University and a bachelors in chemistry and environmental studies from Tufts University. He is a Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment and holds an appointment in the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration and Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.