Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Too bad caribou don't get to vote


"In wildness is the preservation of the world."
-- Henry David Thoreau

ANWR, "anwahrr," the Artic National Wildlife Refuge - sort of the Little Big Horn for America's (and in particular, the Bush administration's) current wars on wild lands and wild life - no, not the last battle for this particular refuge, much less wilderness itself, but a place and a battle that will resonate for a hundred and maybe hundreds of years, just as the defeat of "Yellow Hair" and the United States 7th Cavalry at Little Big Horn still resonates with us (some of us).

After several failed attempts, the newly EVEN MORE regressive, Republican-fortified Senate voted today to proceed with a plan to drill for oil on 1.5 million acres of land we own. It's our land, remember, and I wonder whose side the Senators are on - not the caribou or me or you, that seems likely. A majority of Americans say they are opposed to this sort of aggressive and non-essential plunder of our lands. This land is your land - this land is NOT your land unless you stand up for it - and get your elected officials to stand up for it, too.

Seven Republicans voted against the measure (thank you, John McCain and the two fine ladies from Maine, et al), but three Democratic Senators voted for the measure - no thanks to the backwoodswoman from Louisiana. And what is it with the two Daniels from Hawaii crossing over? Maybe we should show more respect for Hawaii's need to become a sovereign nation once again - these wrongs aren't making a right. Jeez - if those three had sided with their party loyalists, we'd be sitting a bit prettier in the land of the fiercest and most majestic carnivore on the continent, who just happens to wear a lovely white fur coat.

Most of us may never get to Alaska, and if we do get there, it's highly unlikely we'll get as far north as ANWR. More likely, we'll buy an alabaster polar bear at a gift shop and 4th Avenue in Anchorage than actually see one. Can you imagine how few people actually see polar bears and vast herds of caribou in the wild? It's never been many, that's for sure.

And that's the point - is there anything we can't leave alone?

Two things are going on here:

First, President Bush's friends are in this for the money. And second, the Bushies are adamant on making war of all sorts - not just on terrorists and civil liberties and international law but on the notion that our public lands really ought to be controlled by the us, the lowly public. I mean, we're not even major stockholders in these get-rich quick schemes. Furthermore, the Moneymongers want to set a bold precident for invading our public lands for corporate convenience, corporate rule and PROFIT - and not just in far off Alaska but in Utah and Wyoming and West Virginia and Florida or in a pretty nice place near you. These guys would sell Gettysburg or Yosemite to Disney or Coca-Cola or maybe Wal-Mart if the sale would pad the funds payable to Halliburton and Lockeed and that big bad military-industrial complex - and if they could get away with it. (That's the only limit here: how much can they get away with? How much will we let them get away with?) These guys are not big fans of the long term view, the courage to promote innovative progress or even popular demand, much less majority rule. Like I say, a majority of us (via polls I do appreciate) are opposed to what the Senate just did. Most of us just say no to plunking down oil rigs amongst the milling caribou. But then, it's on days like this we're reminded we don't have the power, and they do, those high and might Senators do - and by golly, they're going to use it.

On a global scale, there's very little oil (about six months worth for the U.S., maybe thereabouts), but there are hundreds of billions of dollars to be made by the oil companies. Of all that revenue, what will the government pull in? About enough to fight the Iraqis for a few weeks. Only $5 billion, about a decade from now, will enter governmental coffers, but only half to the U.S. with the other half going to the state of Alaska, a state already so rich it pays every resident several thousand dollars a year just to live there - already a windfall from the other extractive industries plowing into and pumping out the wilderness - nothing like making the spectacular little village of Valdez look like a cross between a Norwegian fjord and the Houston ship channel, I say.

I've been to Alaska and to Valdez. I've even been a hundred miles north of Fairbanks, but I was still hundreds of miles away from ANWR. What I'd give....

This is a hard pill to swallow, and swallow it we should not. ANWR is a symbolic Alamo - "Remember the Caribou!" could be our battle cry. But it is not just about caribou, it's about US, who we are as a people, who we are as a nation. Are we going to be so spoiled and, generally, so uncaring about and thus duped by our greedily elected leaders and the ruling corporations [see "Ides of March" post below] as to [let them] fuck it all up?

How about something pristine, whether you see it as "God's creation" or as the only planet we've got. Nature rules, and like it or not, we depend on a healthy planet - though, come to think of it, it seems so many of think the idea of health is passé, so maybe we've already lost?

No - maybe we should invite a few polar bears to dine in the Senate, feasting on those rarefied blue-bloods who aren't even really willing to say, outright, that they are doing this for US.

I vote for the caribou, even if I never see them. I vote for a pristine place, crystalline and remote and magnificent in its short summer of endless light and long winters enshrouded in darkness and mystery - and so far unscarred by human machines, industries and schemes. I vote for "We, the People" - NOT plunder in our name.

ANWR - NOT in MY name.


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