Where the extraordinary begins. Alaska News Brief March 2022
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Where the extraordinary begins. Alaska News Brief March 2022

We often hear from Alaska’s political players about the need to extract more oil in Alaska, but it’s reached a crescendo in recent weeks. They’re now taking advantage of the suffering of Ukrainians to use the mantras of “national defense” and “energy independence” to promote fossil fuel interests.

Prudhoe Bay flaring. Photo by Florian Schulz.

Their ploy is both horrifying and shameful.

Putin’s war to take over Ukraine targets innocent Ukraine citizens, killing and injuring many thousands, and forcing millions of people to flee. The Ukrainian people taking up arms and fighting are dying in the name of their home. The violence and destruction has destroyed cultural and historic sites and artifacts, ports and roads, and physical and social infrastructure. We have all seen the photos and heard the stories.

That political leaders in Alaska and throughout the country would use this brutality vis-à-vis rising gas prices to promote a fossil fuel industry already responsible for so much disinformation, destruction, and delay in taking responsibility or showing leadership in the climate crisis says everything we need to know about dangerous and dysfunctional political gamesmanship and nothing about real solutions.

The people touting this propaganda know that drilling more oil in Alaska will do nothing to stop the violence and cannot make a dent in gas prices.

We live in a global economy and Alaska’s elected officials know that gas prices respond to global markets and that global markets respond to global crises. It’s their job to understand that there is no “energy independence” and energy choice without an immediate and meaningful commitment to sustainable and locally managed energy systems.

They should also know that the impacts of the climate include the death of people and animals, the loss of entire species and communities, and the forced movement of people fleeing climate-induced disasters like wild fires, violent storms and the loss of food sources.

Ignoring reality to prop up profits is the status quo. Doing what must be done requires courage, will and action.

Recently, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report with a dire warning—and not the first—that if we do not act now by curbing fossil fuel extraction and other measures we will “miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

I’m guessing that report got less traction than Elon Musk’s tweet in support of oil drilling, which ends with the quip, “Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.”

What a cop out. Another egomaniacal autocrat attempting to expand power isn’t new. The status quo is no extraordinary measure.

Whatever Musk says about Tesla taking the hit for the good of the team is horse pucky. Elon Musk is not taking a hit. He is protecting his wealth and power, just like fossil fuel companies and the legislators they support.

We need to stop giving our ears to the tone-deaf ultra-rich and people with decision-making power who know nothing about our lives or communities–or the land–and start listening to each other in community, and to what the land and water, flora and fauna tell us. If we are too far from the land and water to hear, we must go to the people who are listening and do remember.

I was just at a gathering where people from Alaska communities, tribes, and nonprofits talked about ways to protect the health of land and communities when working within systems with worldviews that see the land as something to own, to extract from, to commodify, to violate, to exploit and leave diminished or destroyed.

Not once, but many times elders and young folks alike spoke about the land with such love, such respect, such connection that I remembered in my heart how extraordinary measures must begin.

May we all find our way together,

Vicki Clark, executive director

PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s land, water, air, wildlife and people!

Photo by Florian Schulz

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