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America's Debate > Archive > Assorted Issues Archive > [A] Science and Technology > [A] Environmental Debate
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Ultimatejoe
Ok, so the Senate removed the last obstacle legislative obstacle to prevent drilling in the ANWAR in Alaska. This is a touchy issue, and for the moment I don't want to debate the actual economics behind doing so. I want to instead discuss a different angle.

Much of the pressure to preserve the ANWAR as it is comes from political groups (including the government of Canada and the Gwitchin nation.) Now, these objections are raised out of concern for the fate of the Porcupine Caribou herd, some 130,000 head strong, which is essential to the north-arctic ecosystem and an essential element in the Gwitchin culture; amongst others. The Gwitchin I have singled out because they are visible, and present on both sides of the Canada/US border.

Now, should this herd be aversely effected by the opening of oil drilling, it would spell the practical end for the Gwitchin culture on both side of the Alaska/Yukon border. As their primary food source as well as the centrepiece of Gwitchin cultural practices, the loss or movement of caribou would require those communities to either completely uproot and abandon the way of life that they have been practicing for approximately 12,000 years.

Assume for the purposes of our discussion that such a disruption is either inevitable or likely (I think scientists make pretty convincing claims that it is, but you may disagree.) As indigenous residents of the arctic and dependent on the carefully balanced ecosystem therein, what is to be made of the Gwitchin claims? More specifically:

Does drilling in ANWAR justify the potential threat of cultural extinction, even for a community that numbers only 7,000 people?

Since the community straddles both borders, does Canada have a legitimate stake in the discussion of opening ANWAR?

What relevance, if any, does the 1987 agreement between the two governments to preserve the Porcupine herd and ensure that "the interests of users of Porcupine Caribou are given effective consideration in evaluating proposed activities within the range of the Herd" have?
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Victoria Silverwolf
Thank you for the information about this situation. I admit to having been in total ignorance about it.

Trying to answer all your questions at once, I think that the treaty makes it very clear that any activity which may threaten the Porcupine Caribou Herd must take this into consideration, and that both nations must have a voice in the matter. The "small" size of the population involved (although 7,000 people is certainly not a trivial number) does not seem relevant.

QUOTE
Where an activity in one country, is determined to be likely to cause significant long-term adverse impact on the Porcupine Caribou Herd or its habitat, the other Party will be notified and given an opportunity to consult prior to final decision.


The big question, of course, is whether drilling in the ANWAR will threaten the herd. I don't have enough information to have an opinion on the matter.

CruisingRam
Well, since the caribou population actually INCREASED with the opening of Prudhoe bay- and I have hunted and been in those areas as well- I doubt very seriously that the porcupine herd will even notice there are rigs out there- the area is that big. Think state of texas big- but empty of anything but arctic life- no single large settlement of poeple there- the 7000 are scattered in a very, very large area- with the Gwich'in natives closest- and most dependent on the herd. No doubt whatsoever in my mind that the decimation of that herd would be like genocide to that culture as well- and I am not exagerating one bit- their entire way of life is tied to that herd.

So you can see I am a bit torn here. I know Gwich'in natives, have spoken with them on this very issue- and thier concern for the herd is real.

But once drilling is done on Prudhoe bay- once those rigs are dissassembled and nothing but gravel pads are left- the place will still be just like man found it for millenia. I have no doubt about it- because you just have to go out there and see nothing but the rig for a gazzilion miles in any direction- and this is from the air!

The foot print is just too small to have any real effect. In fact- the real pressure may come from opening up roads to that area- now that the Dalton Hiway is open ( and I went up it this summer to recover a motorcycle) - there are more enviromental threats than when the oil company was the only allowed entity to use the roadway.

So many folks worry about pressure, from all things- from Eco-tourists!-

Now that may very well be the real legitmate argument for the Gwich'in natives- the invasion of unwanted Yuppies with wool! w00t.gif thumbsup.gif

Also consider- all operation is only done during the winter- when there is no porcupine herd in that area- the biggest hole in the ENTIRE "we may harm the herd" thinking- the fact that there is nothing but caretaker staff there during the summer- and all construction is done in the winter- so there is absolutely no way the oil company could "disturb" the herd in any way!

If you ask most Gwich'in natives, they will tell you they are more concerned about the "invasion"'s affect on the herd than the oil companies- so it is a legitimate concern- the added population of POEPLE there due to roads being added.

It is the attitude of the pro-ANWR crowd that scares the Gwich'in the most -

here is an older post by Neo-con30:

Make an argument for the animals that trumps a profitable industry. You say you can't eat the animals, but you can get food from other sources. If you are suggesting that Alaskans will starve because they are so dependant on the wildlife for food, I would withdraw my support for drilling, but I doubt that is the case. Then again, you live in Alaska and know best about the dietary habits of Alaskans.

Are there other reasons not to drill besides saving animals or wildlife? I have not heard any arguments that exceed a possible reduction in gas prices, or a possible decrease in dependancy on the Middle East. I am not suggesting that drilling in Alaska will rid us of the need to import from the Persian Gulf, but it may decrease our imports from that region and sway our foreign policy in regards to military action abroad. It is certainly a gamble, there is a possibility for a profound effect, or it could mean nothing. I am willing to wager the caribou's life on the former, even if wrong, the possibility is worth it.


As you can see, when most folks that are "pro-ANWR" make speeches to them- and then hear stuff like above out loud quite a bit- after all, they do have Fox TV w00t.gif -

So the perception that the Pro-ANWR poeple aren't really worried about a "mere 7000 poeple" - which would scare you if you were one of those 7000 eh? hmmm.gif

So- to directly answer the questions:

Does drilling in ANWAR justify the potential threat of cultural extinction, even for a community that numbers only 7,000 people?
No- genocide is never acceptable! Even for American interests!

Since the community straddles both borders, does Canada have a legitimate stake in the discussion of opening ANWAR?

Absolutely- just don't count on a pro-oil person to actually listen LOL

What relevance, if any, does the 1987 agreement between the two governments to preserve the Porcupine herd and ensure that "the interests of users of Porcupine Caribou are given effective consideration in evaluating proposed activities within the range of the Herd" have?

Well, I think it has a great deal of relevence- since really, in this area, all the way to Washington state- our resources and economies are totally intertwined, and to violate this agreement doesn't say much about our treaties (or our honesty by sticking to a good faith agreement) does it- not that it ever mattered to America to ever follow our treaties! whistling.gif , especially when it comes to the native poeples.


And one additional point of order on this issue- the Gwich'in do not live in the refuge- the Inupiat do:


http://www.anwr.org/archives/residents_of_anwr_support.php

The residents of Kaktovik, the only people living on the Coastal Plain of ANWR, support oil and gas development in their 'back yard'. Alaska's indigenous people have benefited greatly from North Slope production. In addition to providing a tax base for the local government, oil development has provided jobs, funding for water and sewer systems and schools. Native and village corporations with oil field-related subsidiaries are working on the North Slope, and the local government has a voice in permitting and environmental regulation.

BTW- check out the picture here:

http://www.anwr.org/features/pdfs/faces-caribou.pdf

Artemise
Nice post CR, which truly shows the controversy and somewhat both sides of the equasion.
The only part left out was that opening ANWR is not going to solve a single pertroleum problem, either for the US or anyone. Its so much another Alaskan pork project, a supreme get over on the rest of the country. Sure, it will bring jobs to Alaska, in fact , is there anyone but Alaskans and some misinformed anti-foreign recruits pushing for drilling?

We have huge amounts of natural gas stored on the slope going nowhere. Natural gas that WOULD help america keep heating costs down. A gas pipeline is a much better use of resources right now.

This idea about opening ANWR in order to reduce our dependancy on foreign oil is one of the biggest smokescreens and misconceptions going. ANWR is Never going to replace foreign dependancy, so whats the rush, except pressure from Alaska? Yeah, we need the jobs. They miss the great oil days of yesteryear when Alaska was swimming in cash.

To answer the questions about the herd and treaty.
A 1987 agreement is legally valid, unless 18 years renders a contract useless in this day and age.

The impact of drilling is not only drilling but increased activity, roads, sewage, noise and yes, tourists who can now drive there. IMPACT.
It IS a fragile eco-system and just because the caribou now graze next to rigs and the existing pipeline does not mean they will not migrate further away when increased activity imposes upon them, and the natives WILL be affected and yes, they DO matter.
( 3,000 people were killed in WTC, did they matter? Or is it just 7,000 natives that dont matter? )

What happens if and when these oldest communities are disappeared? What do we really lose or win? The oil? WHy now? Why not wait until its absolutely necessary?

Even living in Alaska and Ive thought about this long and hard, I dont think we need to rush to drill ANWR. There really is more at stake than caribou and natives, its how we manage ourselves and others, its about how greedy, self serving and ruthless we are.
Giles
The only part left out was that opening ANWR is not going to solve a single pertroleum problem, either for the US or anyone. Its so much another Alaskan pork project, a supreme get over on the rest of the country. Sure, it will bring jobs to Alaska, in fact , is there anyone but Alaskans and some misinformed anti-foreign recruits pushing for drilling?

COMPLETELY AGREE ON THIS POINT, ARTEMISE.

Even if we were to start drilling in the ANWR, there would not be a sustantial amount of oil. it may help less than 5% of our country's oil supply. Right now instead of looking for new places to drill the world needs to focus on new forms of energy. Even if we did drill in the ANWR, that supply would not hold us over for very long and we would still be faced with our shortage of oil problems we have today. ANWAR could buy us time but is it worth killing an ecosystem?
nemov
QUOTE(Giles @ Nov 11 2005, 09:17 AM)
Even if we did drill in the ANWR, that supply would not hold us over for very long and we would still be faced with our shortage of oil problems we have today. ANWAR could buy us time but is it worth killing an ecosystem?
*


First of all, there is no “shortage of oil.” Even if we doubled the amount of oil being pulled out of the ground, we do not have the refineries available for it to make a difference. If anyone is confused about what the problem currently is take a look at the number of refineries in the US in 1978 compared to the number of refineries in existence today. Our population has increased and our ability to refine oil has decreased. Even if every car in American became a hybrid tomorrow, we would have the same problem in 5 years.

I agree we need new sources of energy, but I am also realistic. It ain’t going to happen with our current form of Government. We can whine all we want about the energy corporations, but they are going to dictate what we use for energy. When the oil eventually runs out, they’ll be the ones converting to new sources. The only change we can make is force our lawmakers to build more refineries.

We have two choices.

1) Live with higher energy costs
2) Build more refineries

We need to start building infrastructure soon or the costs to our economy are going to make all these environmental concerns an afterthought in history.
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