Ricky Ochilo, staff writer
Flying over Alaska, you might think Sarah Palin’s state is an environmental haven. There are vast landscapes of glaciers, snow capped mountains, rich lagoons and meandering river deltas.
The protector of the Alaskan wilderness and governor of Alaska is today one of the most recognized figures in the world. However, despite her charming smile, and behind her enormously hearty family values is a woman who strongly supports big oil and coal firms that are racing to outstrip Alaska’s wide energy reserves. While this may appear as an environmental nightmare to some, for Palin, her allegiance to big oil has guaranteed her popular support in her own backyard.
Palin’s fervent support for big oil and coal firms was met with elation and jubilee at the Republican National Convention (RNC), where the slogan to the imminent energy crisis were cheers of “drill, baby, drill.” But Palin,who could potentially take over from the old man McCain, has an environmental policy so lethal that it makes George Bush look like an environmental stalwart.
In the past, McCain has been strongly in favor of countering global warming. He has also come out several times against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But with the growing energy crisis and shortage of fuel, McCain has continued to be indecisive on the issue. Most environmentalists view Palin as denying the reality she sees. Palin denies climate change is man-made, which has inspired criticism from those concerned with ecological preservation.
“She’s either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading, and both are unbecoming,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Similarly, Palin wants to begin drilling in the Alaskan reserves. She is among the opponents of moving the polar bear onto the list of threatened species. Apart from that, she has pledged and permitted big game hunters to shoot Alaska’s wolves and bears from low flying planes.
According to Palin, the federal government’s move to protect the polar bear will defeat energy developments offshore. Consequently, Palin has filed a lawsuit against the federal government for ruling the polar bear is a threatened species.
The U.S Geological Survey says climate change has decreased Arctic summer sea ice to 1.65 million square miles, which is almost 40 percent less than the long term average reported between 1979 and 2000.
With figures like these it would be hard to ignore the evidence that global warming is a threat to sea ice. Nonetheless, Palin continues to remain adamant about climate change having nothing to do with human activity. Palin also wants to implement open-cast coal mining in Alaska’s Brooks Range Mountains, which would lead to the loss of habitat for various species and start the phase of extinction for sustained ecosystems.
During her term as governor, Palin has granted Chevron permission to triple the levels of toxic wastes dumped into the waters of Cook Inlet. Yet the number of beluga whales which once paraded the bay has declined to 350 from 1300 as a result of rising pollution and increased movement of ships.
At the RNC, she said: “We Americans need to produce more of our own oil and gas and take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska, we’ve got lots of both.” She added that even though drilling will not solve most of the current problems it should “not be an excuse to do nothing at all.”
The governor wants no interference when it comes to explorations by oil companies. She maintains that polar bears are in no danger and their population has sky rocketed over 30 years due to conservation. In addition, she believes that if the ice should melt, the bears will adapt and begin living on land. Recently, more oil companies have been moving back to settle in Alaska. In the 1980’s oil prices fell and many companies abandoned Alaska. The withdrawal of oil companies in the 80s served to promote the diverse habitat, wildlife and preservation of Alaska’s pristine landscapes. Indeed, the recent support by neoconservatives to lift the drilling bans in the Arctic region threatens the livelihood of long established ecosystems and aquamarine life.
Many of the oil companies are concentrating on Prudhoe Bay, the center of oil production in Alaska and one of the world’s largest industrial centers. However, there are hundreds of spills which occur in the region annually. Tens of thousands of gallons of crude and petroleum grace Prudhoe’s slopes each year. Some of the past destruction has resulted in the loss of 17,000 acres of both wildlife and marine environment. For Palin, Prudhoe is just one of the areas she and other oil companies are interested in.
A developing fate for other rich environmental plains awaits Alaska’s coast and some areas of the western Arctic. The arctic region sustains diverse species, such as wolverines, grizzly and polar bears, caribou herds and musk oxen. If a McCain-Palin administration is elected, the future of the region and its wildlife is seemingly grim.
In fact, last year Palin supported offering a 150 dollar bounty per wolf to hunters who provided the wolf’s foreleg as evidence of the kill. However, the measure failed to pass. But Palin was not easily deterred. She spent $400,000 on a campaign funded by the state to block faction attempts to end the wolf hunts.
According to Trish Rolfe, head of the Sierra Club’s Office in Alaska, Governor Palin has been a disappointment and a calamity for Alaska’s environment. She mentioned that “the idea that she [Palin] stands up to oil companies is a joke.” After all, she’s in bed with one of them. Her husband, Todd Palin, is employed by British Petroleum in Alaska.