Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

These pictures were taken by my friends Stan and Sally Olsen. I met them in 2008 on a bicycle trip from the Lower 48 to Alaska. I have stayed in their house in Anchorage and they have stayed in mine in El Cerrito. I am proud to know them and call them my friends. They are some of the best people I have ever met.

[This is how one gets to ANWR. There are no roads]

[Pristine vastnesses]

[The ridgeline. The north face is scoured of snow by winds off the Arctic Ocean]

[The ridgeline seen from afar.]


[Sally - with lunch]

[Speaking of lunch.... Wolf tracks and caribou tracks. The caribou appears to be running. This does NOT look good for the caribou.]

[A glacial rooster comb. This is a peak of rock that protruded above the glacial ice and thus was not carved away. Evidence of recent glaciation is seen all over the north. Greenland and Antarctica are still under ice. The Ice Age is not over. It is still ending.]

[Have you noticed that there are no trees? Just as high mountains like the Sierra have a treeline above which winter weather is too severe for trees to survive, so too the whole planet has a treeline, north of which no tree grows. ANWR is well north of the planetary treeline.]

[No caribou were harmed in the making of this blog entry. Caribou shed their antlers annually. Notice that there is no skeleton near the antlers.]

[Stan and Sally in repose.]

[This is as indoors as it gets. There are NO buildings in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. None.]

[Stan and Sally and their friends kayaked down the Hula Hula River to the Arctic Ocean]

[Reaching the Arctic Ocean. Sally with sea ice.]

[End of the trail]

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, (called "ANWaR"), is your heritage as an American. It belongs to you. It is also is where the oil companies want to drill for oil and gas. Are you really willing to let them f__k it up even for oil and gas?

In 1967 when the Prudhoe Bay oil strike came in, the oil companies solemnly promised that they would carefully preserve the Arctic coast. They didn't. The Arctic coast of Alaska today is a nightmare of abandoned rusting equipment, decaying buildings, and endless oil rigs with no buffer between them and the environment. The environment the oil companies promised to protect. Contrary to the promise that it would be tightly localized, the oilfield development sprawls for hundreds of miles along the coast.

There have been repeated oil spills including a major one in 2006. The response of the oil company responsible, BP (British Petroleum). was not to spend money on cleaning it up nor to invest in preventing future spills. Instead they invested in litigating to avoid being held responsible.

BP is the leading advocate of opening ANWR to oil and gas extraction.

How much have Alaskans learned to be cautious and to treat oil company promises with circumspection?

At least one Alaskan, Sarah Palin. expressed her sense of restraint and the need for careful regulation and environmental protections with the motto, "Drill, Baby! Drill!" She is the darling of the Right and of the Tea Party Movement. And she is running for President. ANWR is only part of what is at stake.

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