The Senate is voting on a tax bill that harms our nation in numerous ways, but one of the most egregious offenses to provides for is opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling interests. The idea is that increased drilling will create another economic boom for Alaska. However it will not only harm a fragile ecosystem, it will contribute to accelerating climate change, further pollutes soil and water, devastate wildlife populations, and, not least of all, yet again damage the way of life of indigenous people. If this is permitted it sets a precedent that could affect not only Alaska, but our entire population. It does not need to happen, and should not happen.
Drilling operations do bring money into a local economy. This cannot be disputed. For a few people, jobs are created directly. For a few more, businesses that support those jobs are boosted. That seems like a great benefit for those communities until you look at the external effects that drilling operations bring.
In order to bring in the equipment there are roads that must be cut into the environment. Trucks and diggers and large equipment will alter the landscape leading to the site as well as the site itself. At the very start you are tearing up the soil and polluting the air with exhaust. That area of the world has a relatively short growing cycle, and all of the species of plants and animals are vulnerable to even small changes to their ecosystem. Tearing up the soil may mean that many of the plant species are simply wiped out, and those that feed on those species are naturally devastated by the absence of their food source. The toxins that will be added, through pollution, to the air and water will also contribute to the near, if not complete, extinction of species that have been protected for generations. The act of drilling in the refuge will turn a vibrant, living ecosystem into a wasteland.
The local effects are not the only ones to be concerned about. The drilling is in search of fossil fuels for our energy demand. Using those fuels perpetuates a problem that we have been contending with for the past 2 decades in that we are emitting more and more carbon into the atmosphere at an exponentially increasing rate. The US Global Change Research Program's Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) from 2017 is very clear. We are releasing, in the form of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane gas the material that is causing our planet's temperature to rise at an alarming rate. The effects of this process have been eloquently demonstrated by climate scientists for years. Their predictions are coming true. We have more powerful storms and hurricanes as a result of climate change, causing monstrous damage just this past year to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands (just to name areas of the US directly affected). We have seen devastating droughts resulting in more wildfires. The sea levels are rising everywhere, causing damage to properties even along the Great Lakes, like Lake Ontario this past year. Opening up the Arctic Refuge, continuing to look for ways to increase fossil fuel production, only increases the rate and consequences of climate change, which ultimately threatens all of our lives.
The loss of wildlife populations due to drilling operations, while certainly a loss to the world in an ecological sense, is a very human loss. Losing these species can result in a loss of opportunity in understanding how our world works and understanding of certain biological processes, and without that may inhibit our own growth in scientific and medical fields. The loss of the habitat and species harms a growing ecotourism industry that may be a better economic boon for the Alaskan people. Hunting and fishing operations are irreparably harmed by the loss of the Arctic Refuge.
Finally, there are indigenous people who live on and depend on the preservation of the refuge, the Gwich'in. The Gwich'in have lived in the Arctic for far longer than we have had the United States. They depend on the Caribou herds of the refuge to sustain their lives. They depend on the fresh water from the streams of the refuge.
The United States has a history of disrespect for the native tribes of America that is not supported by the people of the US. Last year we saw overwhelming support for the Standing Rock Sioux in their effort to keep their water clean and free of oil spills from pipelines, and overwhelming outrage as the government ignored those efforts and proceeded with the pipeline. Once again, for oil interests, we see a threat to another Native American people. How are we to build trust with the people who we share land with, to hopefully have them one day accept us as their own and have us accept them as our own, when we continually abuse their rights as human beings? How can we hold ourselves up as morally righteous if we commit such crimes? We have to make a stand now, and commit to mutual respect and support of all people's right to exist and live.
This tax bill harms our nation in many ways. We must stand up and scream that this is not right! We value our wildlife refuges as we value our own lives, and they are dependent on each other. The opening up of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling and development is not the way to a more prosperous life for our nation as it causes life to cease. It harms not only the local ecology but the ecology of our planet, and as such it is a concern for every area of our nation. We must work to ensure that this tax bill does not pass, or if it does, vote in the people next year who will reverse it and work for the benefit of us all.