A Cry For the Wilderness: Making Your Voice Heard
Shortly after reading Susan Meeker-Lowry's article, "Energy Follies", in the May/June issue of SOC, I happened to come across an article that was forwarded to me via one of the on-line services which I subscribe to, KOLANews. The article, which is reprinted below, reported on the appointment by Interior Secretary Gale Norton of two people to key Interior Department positions in roles as special assistants on Alaskan issues. The appointments by Norton seemed to me to represent a direct affront to the sentiments of the majority of Americans who believe that we should restrain ourselves from despoiling one of the last vast expanses of wilderness in our country, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
As I read the report of the appointments, Susan's closing words that, "it is important that you let your representatives know how you feel about protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," rang in my ears and so I felt compelled to write to Gale Norton, to my Senators and Congressman, and to the White House, to let them know how I personally felt about all of this. The resultant letter that I wrote is also reproduced in this article.
Having sent off my letter via e-mail and fax machine to the parties listed above, I figured that I would perhaps receive the standard form letter in response — that my correspondence had been received and would be given due consideration, or something to that effect. So it was a pleasant surprise when I received a response from Senator Kerry which addressed my concerns and showed an awareness of the issues involved in the debate over drilling for oil in ANWR. Senator Kerry's letter is also reproduced in this article.
And so, where does this leave us? Well, I think that the last presidential election showed us just how important a vote can be and so, in the same sense, it is important that we make our voices heard. It is easy to sit back and think that one voice will have no effect on the outcome of an issue, but complacency in a democracy is a dangerous road to take. It is important that we continue to voice our opinions and beliefs on the issues that are important to us so that the people we have elected to oversee the running of our country will take the actions that the majority of the American people ask them to take. It is my hope that in sharing all of this with you, you may be inspired to add your own voice to the debate and ask that our politicians lend their ears to the voices of the people, rather than only hearing the voice of Business.
From: KOLA [email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 3:35 PM
Subject: KOLANews — Alaska Drilling Supporters Get Key Interior Posts
Source: Reuters | Breaking News from Around the Globe Raw News: “Alaska Drilling Supporters Get Key Interior Posts”
June 17, 2001 09:21 AM ET
By Yereth Rosen
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) — The head of a group campaigning for oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and an Alaska lawmaker who has promoted North Slope oil development were named to key Interior Department positions.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton said on Saturday she has appointed Cam Toohey as her special assistant for Alaska and state Sen. Drue Pearce as a senior adviser on Alaska issues. Development backers hailed the appointments but environmentalists slammed them.
Since 1996, Toohey has been executive director of Arctic Power, an Anchorage-based lobbying group with the campaign for ANWR drilling as its sole purpose. He will be based in Anchorage, overseeing the Interior Department's Alaska operations. Pearce, an Anchorage Republican who served two terms as president of the state Senate, will be based in Washington. Hers is a new position.
Norton said the Bush administration remains committed to promoting oil development in the Arctic refuge, despite opposition from environmentalists and the recent shift of power in the U.S. Senate to the Democrats, who generally oppose the drilling plans. Oil from the refuge's coastal plain "needs to be considered in any debate" about a national energy policy,” Norton said at a news conference in Anchorage.
"It's such a large resource that it cannot be ignored," she said. "Even at the low-end estimates we could get as much oil from the (coastal plain) area as we get from (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein. It's a choice the American public has to make." Development backers welcomed Norton's selections.
"These appointments are great for Alaska," Oliver Leavitt, chairman of the Barrow-based Arctic Slope Regional Corp., said in a prepared statement. Arctic Slope, a regional corporation owned by the Inupiat Eskimos of the North Slope, has long pushed for oil development in the Arctic refuge.
Environmentalists criticized the appointments. "Today we've seen a hostile takeover of the Interior Department by the oil industry," said Sara Callaghan Chapell, an Alaska spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. Instead of appointing stewards for Alaska's resources, Norton has "chosen cheerleaders for Big Oil," she said.
The Arctic refuge's coastal plain, which could hold 3 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil, according to Interior Department estimates, is also the calving ground for a huge herd of caribou. Environmentalists say the narrow coastal plain, wedged between the Brooks Range and the Arctic Ocean, is critical to the ecosystem of the Arctic region.
Alaska is the only state to receive the dedicated attention from senior advisers, said Norton, who was visiting Anchorage. That is appropriate, she said, because so much of the vast state is managed by the Interior Department, from national parks and wildlife refuges to Native American tribal affairs. "Alaska is unique in that respect. This is so much of a part of what the department does," she said.
The positions are especially important "because of the approach that the Bush administration is using on environmental issues," Norton said. "We want to involve local people in the decision-making. We want to use a consensus-building approach, involving environmentalists and industry and business people and farmers and ranchers and everybody who will be affected by our decisions," she said.
From: Austin, John
Sent: Monday, June 18, 2001 3:04 PM
Subject: Oil Companies Buy Presidential Election
To: Gale Norton, Secretary of the Interior
It's becoming more and more apparent to the general public that the office of the President of the United States was apparently purchased by the oil companies so that they could ensure that their agenda would proceed, unimpeded by such minor distractions as global warming and massive deterioration of the Earth's ecosystems. When the Earth has finally been raped so that every last drop of oil has been extracted and our waters lay filthy and stagnant and our air is unbreathable and our forests are gone, how then will these oil companies make their profit? As we rush headlong into the wall of disaster that looms before us, will we even pause to blink when our end becomes certain?
Your recent appointments of Cam Toohey as your "special assistant" for Alaska, a man who has for the past five years been the executive director of Arctic Power, an Anchorage-based lobbying group with the campaign for ANWR drilling as its sole purpose, and Sen. Drue Pearce, an ardent supporter of ANWR drilling, to be a senior advisor on Alaska issues, shows a complete disregard for the wishes of the American people. Through your actions, you have shown us exactly how things stand: the only voice that matters in this country is the voice of big business and if they wish to be about the business of destroying our environment and of raping the world and of leaving a g–d— cinder-ash in their wake all for the sake of making a filthy buck, then so be it. Damn the grandchildren who will inherent the filth that is the excrement of big business. Damn it all and let’s just get it over with and throw out a few nukes and end it here, rather then prolonging things. Ah…no profit in that, is there? Hmm…maybe ask the weapons-makers about that. Maybe they would find a profit in it.
In your own words: “…the Bush administration remains committed to promoting oil development in the Arctic refuge…oil from the refuge's coastal plain needs to be considered in any debate about a national energy policy…” AND “…It's such a large resource that it cannot be ignored. Even at the low-end estimates we could get as much oil from the (coastal plain) area as we get from (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein. It's a choice the American public has to make.” AND “We want to involve local people in the decision-making. We want to use a consensus-building approach, involving environmentalists and industry and business people and farmers and ranchers and everybody who will be affected by our decisions.” [Source: Reuters, Copyright 2001, via KOLANews, June 18, 2001]
The truth of it is that this is not an act of consensus-building by any stretch of the imagination. This is a strong-arm tactic whose sole purpose is to allow big oil into Alaska so that they can destroy yet another piece of the Earth. This shows a complete contempt and disregard for the wishes of the American people. Today, I am sickened by your actions. I am sickened by the actions of the people who purport to be our leaders and who say that they are acting in our best interests. The only interests they have in their hearts are their own interests and it sickens me beyond description.
I have spoken from my heart.
Worcester, MA 01604
From: John Kerry [mail to: John_Kerry@kerry.senate.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2001 12:35 PM
To: Austin, John
Subject: Rule: Re: Oil Companies Buy Presidential Election
Thank you for your thoughtful letter concerning the preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). During my sixteen-year tenure in the Senate, I have been a strong supporter of the environment, and I hope to continue that fight in this new Congress.
Our nation is tremendously fortunate to have inherited this unique and beautiful piece of land. I believe we must demonstrate stewardship and discipline to protect it from oil drilling. The 20-million acre refuge houses one of the last complete ecosystems on the planet with more than 180 species of birds, important denning area for polar bears, and the principal calving ground for a herd of more than 130,000 migratory Porcupine caribou.
The protection established in 1980 included a ban on drilling in the 1.5 million acre portion of the Alaskan coastal pain unless specifically authorized by Congress. Increased oil activity in a nearby area has already proven harmful to this delicate ecosystem, evidenced by major shifts in caribou calving routes away from development. The expansion of roads, pipelines, drilling pads, and other infrastructure will undoubtedly have profound and harmful impact upon the environment. Some biologists have already predicted a 40 percent decline in the birthrate of Porcupine caribou if drilling is allowed.
In addition, the benefits of oil extraction are unlikely to make any short term difference in the oil market, as production from the region would not reach the market for at least ten years. The Bush administration has also cited the current energy crisis in California as a reason to expand exploration. However, less than 1 percent of California's energy comes from oil. Furthermore, the total amount of oil available in the region maybe far less than the Bush Administration has claimed, possibly as little as a six month supply.
For these reasons, I will work to protect the Arctic Refuge. I intend to cosponsor legislation to protect more than 1.5 million acres of the Refuge from drilling, and will block any attempt to disturb this pristine area. I can assure you that I will continue the effort to defend and expand existing protections in the 107th Congress. Thank you again for expressing your views about this issue, and I encourage you to contact my office with any additional concerns. I hope you find this message helpful and responsive. Please let me know if it does not directly respond to your email message.
John F. Kerry
- KOLANews — http://users.skynet.be/kola/index.htm
- Anchorage Daily News — http://adn.com/"
- ANWR Facts and Figures — http://adn.com/anwr/story/0,3506,258301,00.html
- U.S. Department of the Interior — http://www.doi.gov/
- To find the contact information for your political representatives, contact MASSPIRG at 617-292-4800 or www.studentpirgs.org.
- For more information about oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contact the Sierra Club at 415-977-5500 or www.sierraclub.org.
- Visit www.ecopledge.com to learn how you can join a highly successful groundswell movement of consumers uniting their voices and buying power to make a difference.