Monday, July 14, 2008

What kind of people are we?


Red-necked Phalarope

"This is my mistake. Let me make it good."

-- R.E.M., World Leader Pretend

Drilling for oil in the ANWR isn't likely to make our visits to the gas pump any less unpleasant now or any time in the future. Recent studies by the Bush Administration's own Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that even if Congress authorized drilling this year, no oil would be available before 2018. Even at its highest point in 2027, the price impact would never exceed $1.44 per barrel, translating to just a penny or two at the gas pump. Oh, I know, I know...just the idea we can (or eventually do) drill in the ANWR might affect speculation markets. Well, how honorable a thing is that?

I've posted articles and information about precipitous bird population declines on this blog in the past; regular readers understand what the causes are. The number one reason we're losing our native birds is due to habitat loss and fragmentation. If you take away land where birds nest, their numbers will decline – it's that simple. This is not only about despoiling part of the ANWR, but also how it symbolizes our ongoing and systematic exploitive behavior throughout the world – just tack the ANWR habitat losses to the ever-diminishing total. Birds (and other animals) are invariably on the losing side because we can't seem to stop developing land they depend on for survival.

The coastal plain is not a "barren wasteland" as the asinine "The Truth About ANWR" chain-email states. You just gotta love the aerial photographs showing what appears to be a vast "lifeless" landscape. Ignorance. Oh gee, guess what's nesting there during the summer? Nearly 200 species of birds use the ANWR, many of which are threatened and declining. Potentially, the entire coastal plain section of area 1002 is at risk for development – 1.5 million acres, not just 2,000 acres. Look at the sizes of Prudhoe and Kuparuk oil fields...do you really think we'll stop? Whether a little or a lot, development of any kind will translate to fewer nests and increased bird mortality. Build roads? That will increase bird morality. Spill oil? Even more birds will perish. If you're fine with the trade-off (birds for pennies), then give your support to drilling for oil in the ANWR.


USF&WS

The core of this issue is not only political, but also cultural and societal. Just what kind of people are we? When or where are we ever going to stop? Should we set aside pristine natural areas for critters or not? Are we going to keep despoiling natural areas until there's nothing left? What then when the ANWR 1002 oil runs out? And it will, eventually. Will the enevitable further declines of shorebird species have been worth the pennies we all saved at the gas pump? What's a phalarope worth, anyway? I would gladly pay the extra cost when I fill up at the gas pump to keep the ANWR free from development and drilling.

Link: Snopes - The Truth about ANWR

Link: Petroleum Assessment - 1002 Area

Link: Analysis of ANWR Crude Oil Production

Link: Shorebirds on the Arctic Coastal Plain

"Legislation has also been proposed to authorize oil exploration and development in a designated section (1002 Area) of the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Arctic Refuge). Potential effects of oil and gas development on wildlife include the loss of habitat through the building of roads, pads, pipelines, dumps, gravel pits, and other infrastructure. Roads and pads also increase levels of dust, alter hydrology, thaw permafrost, and increase roadside snow accumulation (Auerbach et al., 1997; National Research Council, 2003). These impacts may decrease habitat quantity and quality for nesting shorebirds (Meehan, 1986; Troy Ecological Research Associates, 1993a; Auerbach et al., 1997)."

Red-necked Phalarope © 2008 Mike McDowell

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