The recent television program Frozen Planet demonstrates just how special and important the area known as the Arctic is by displaying its wildlife, plant life, and environment. The show also depicts how the area is threatened by climate change and human interference. Frozen Planet has helped contribute to breaking down many misconceptions about the Arctic, including the idea that it is a barren wasteland ready to exploit for oil drilling or that it is a distant, remote area that has no affect on the rest of the world and vice versa.
Unbeknownst to most, the Arctic truly is a place with abundant and diverse life forms that play an integral role in the ecological health of the entire world. There are wetlands, lakes, oceans, whales, polar bears, caribou, walruses, waterfowl, seals and a plethora of other unique life forms. Unfortunately, some do not see it this way, but as a vast, cold wasteland that contains secrets multitudes of oil. Such a viewpoint lends to exploitation.
Shell Oil has already begun sending ships towards the distant Arctic waters in order to exploit Alaska’s oil rich northern coast. Unfortunately, those waters are incredibly fragile and are home to dozens of species, including many threatened ones such as polar bears and endangered ones like the bowhead whale, walrus, seals, and birds. April 20th of this year marked the two-year anniversary of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is disturbing that the president is already considering drilling in the Arctic Ocean. Obviously, such a detrimental and dangerous process is not worth the gigantic risk. Not only would millions of wildlife be affected for the worse, but native communities that depend on the Arctic’s various ecosystems would also be devastated. More so, if an oil spill were to occur in the Arctic, cleanup would be nearly impossible given the conditions inherent to the Arctic, such as: twenty foot swells, persistent frozen sea conditions, hurricane force winds, and darkness for months out of the year. The region is also remote and inaccessible.
The Bureau of Land Management is usually the last defense against the exploitation of animals and nature. Yet, for the first time ever the Bureau of Land Management is considering making the land a reserve, not for animals, as you would expect, but for oil. The plan is to create a 23.5 million acre reserve called the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska. Instead of creating a safe harbor for this threatened ecosystem the BLM plans to facilitate the exploitation by allowing for oil and gas development.
The reserve is currently the largest continuous swatch of public land in the Unites States. The ecosystems and climates contained in the reserve are various and include coastal lagoons as well as rugged mountains. All the rich diversity of the public land would be threatened by oil and gas development. Some of the largest populations of grizzly and polar bears, muskoxen, caribou, the arctic fox, wolves, seals and bowhead whales reside in this area. Without essential lagoons, plains, tundra, wetlands, and lakes there would be no place for birds to nest, stage, feed, and molt. There are millions of waterfowl, sea, and shorebirds that depend on such areas.
The reserve should remain protected for future generations of wildlife and people alike. The environmental nonprofit group Earthjustice is compiling thousands of public comments to submit to the Bureau of Land Management on behalf of preserving the arctic. They also are working to save salmon, protect the Arctic Ocean from drilling, and protect the arctic from fracking. To preserve these important natural wonders please check out their petitions to President Obama, the Bureau of Land Management and the Senate here: Earthjustice Advocacy.
Photo credit: arctic.fws.gov/images/arctic.gif