Corporations and rich families came out victorious after Senate Republicans passed one of the most significant tax bills in decades on Saturday, Dec. 2. Buried in nearly 480 pages of convoluted, borderline illegible legislation is one major detail that has been skimmed over, which is that the tax bill could allow 1.5 million acres of Alaskan wilderness to be opened up for oil and gas drilling.
While there are many groups who cease to benefit from the bill, in addition to the millions of Americans who fall into the lower income brackets that also lost out, there is one more loser that no one is acknowledging sitting on the bench: Planet Earth. Yes, if environmental progress is the football in front of Charlie Brown, the government is Lucy pulling it away at the last second every time.
We are taking one more step in the direction of destroying all of the beautiful, natural things this earth has to offer by proposing to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Not only are we disturbing and ruining the homes of the species who live there, but we are allowing practices that harm the environment you and I live in, too.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 200 species of animals, not to mention thousands of indigenous people who inhabit the tundra. Different types of bears, birds, foxes, caribou, wolves and fish have coexisted in the refuge for hundreds of thousands of years. Disturbing their delicate ecosystems by drilling for oil and gas will have devastating effects on both their environments and ours.
While the Senate proposal still has to make it through a compromise with the House, the issue could very well come to fruition, and it’s something we need to acknowledge now.
Instead of respecting the animals and humans that thrive in the refuge, our politicians and corporations see the spectacular untouched land with giant dollar signs over their eyes; begging to cash in on the oil deposits located within the territory.
We were given such an amazing and diverse planet to enjoy and thrive on, and all we have done is disrespect, pillage and wipe out all of the natural life that has existed for millions of years before us. How can we keep acknowledging over and over again that how we are treating the planet, how we are affecting our climate, ecosystems and environment, is horrible, yet still pass legislation that will continue to allow us to destroy it? Is it really so difficult to stop demolishing the planet that we are actually entertaining the idea of colonizing Mars?
The existence of climate change and global warming reached scientific consensus over two decades ago, with parties leading the skepticism against it being fossil fuel companies and other institutions such as ExxonMobil and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is a plethora of negative effects that global warming has on the Earth, and many industries contribute to the entrapment of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The oil drilling industry is one of the worst offenders.
The largest detriment of oil drilling is the process of refining crude oil. Not only does it release chemicals into the air that contribute to pollution, but it also emits high levels of carbon that get trapped in the atmosphere with other greenhouse gases and causes climate change. People everywhere feel the repercussions of oil drilling, not just the animals and locals inhabiting the area.
While oil drilling and regulation has gotten safer in recent years, oil spill accidents are nearly inevitable and all too common. Spills are incredibly devastating not only to marine life, but to the animals and humans who depend on the affected water for their livelihood.
To put it simply, we have to stop treating the earth this way. We have to recognize the risks of depleting Earth’s resources at catastrophic rates and the environmental implications that our energy sources have. We have to stop thinking of it as someone else’s problem: This oil drilling that could happen all the way over in northeastern Alaska affects you. It affects the air you breathe, the weather outside, and the animals your kids may never get to see if we wipe them all out.
While it can feel difficult to have optimism about environmentalists ever fighting a winning battle, there are still things you can do. Call or write to your representatives and Congressmen and tell them that you don’t want them to back the proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Vote with your dollar by supporting companies who fight for the environment rather than ravage it. Watch some episodes of “Planet Earth” on Netflix to help you realize how truly amazing this world is, and how much bigger it is than you, me, or any of the corporations out to destroy it.