Northwest Horizons

The Arctic Refuge: home to more than just oil

Maddie Lawson, Arts and culture editor

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In 1980, under President Carter, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was born. It consists of 30,136 square miles of untouched land and pristine rivers. Its home to thousands of species ranging from brown bears to snowy owls, arctic foxes and polar bears. But ever since the refuge was created oil drillers have ben after the land for its miniscule amount of oil. An amount that would only power the US for 6 months. They believe that half a year’s worth of oil is worth the disruption of countless plants, animals and ecosystems. Today, they are specifically after the oil in the Coastal plain of the reserve.

“Drilling destroys and disrupts land that houses ecosystems that are required to sustain the environment,” junior Emma Taney said.

If drillers come to this area, it will ruin it, just like countless other places they’ve already left behind in a mess like the Gulf of Mexico, South Africa, and the Rainforest.

The animals that migrate through the refuge also play a large role to those surrounding the refuge. The Gwich’in people of Alaska and northern Canada depend greatly on the Caribou that live in the reserve and migrate through it. The Gwich’in people have been fighting against the government for their land for 29 years. A nation of 8,000 people depends on that land for survival and tradition, the land is sacred ground to them and they have always been told by their elders to prote
ct it.

The nation’s Faith is tied to the health and well-being of this land. They depend on the Porcupine Caribou that every spring have around 40,000 calves born there. According to the nation’s elders, “what befalls the caribou, befalls the gwich’in”

But this has become more that a fight for their sacred traditions. It has become an issue of food security and human rights, not to mention the fact that this would set a precedent that even protected land can be bought for a high enough price.

“In today’s society there’s a great desire for oil and I get it, but it doesn’t seem like in this particular case there’s a need to drill [in the Arctic Refuge],” junior Nico Rotundo said.

In the end, it comes down to how Earth and nature is viewed. An indigenous view versus that of the western world. The foundations of which are completely different. One the caribou, the other oil.
With the approach of a decision needing to be made on whether or not to drill in the Arctic refuge, many corporations and conservation groups have taken the project under their wing to try to prevent drillers from arriving in the refuge. Companies like Patagonia and North Face have partnered with groups like The Alaskan Wilderness League to advertised the issue in magazines and on their websites. They have a large consumer base of people interested in the outdoors and conservation and this is helping the arctic refuge issue gain publicity.

“I saw something about it in a Patagonia ad, and it seems like it’s a really big issue,” Razvan Lazar said.

Many people have taken it upon themselves to write to president Obama and ask him personally not to drill in land so sacred to a group of people living here. Not to disrupt the animals and ecosystems. Not to set a precedent that can never be undone.

There is also a petition that you can sign here: http://act.alaskawild.org/survey/thenorthface/

And a moving short documentary, “The Refuge” from Patagonia about the Gwich’in people can be found here: http://www.patagonia.com/the-refuge.html

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The Arctic Refuge: home to more than just oil