¿Drill Baby Drill?

Eric Robertson
Polar Bears
George Bush and John McCain's VP running mate, Sarah Palin, want to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling. I guess I don't have any problem with that anymore than I do with slashing and burning the Amazon Rain forest to grow crops, or damming the Colorado River to make electricity, or draining the Everglades to grow sugar cane. It's easy to sacrifice things that are far away and don't seem connected to me. But it doesn't make me feel good.

The problem is no one has come right out and asked me to sacrifice anything. Where are the leaders that can ask us to give up real things that will make a real difference?
Two congressional representatives, Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-North Carolina) asked us to stop eating French Fries back in '03, but they gave us an out if we called them Freedom Fries. (I guess some things are just too hard to give up.)

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to the Polar Bear, Caribou and countless other threatened species. The pro-oil people claim that we can extract oil cleanly without disturbing these species. Well, I just ask you to remember the Exxon Valdez. Oil is a messy business. Even with the most careful extraction, bad things will happen.

We are constantly called on to feed our ever-present addiction to OIL. But why don't we feel called on to let the polar bears feed themselves? As it is the wild polar bears last meal may be the licked remains of some oil driller's tv dinner. Maybe Sarah Palin's husband.

Our military men and women have made huge sacrifices. They have lost life and limb over oil, which, if you get down to it, is what control of the Middle East is really all about. So would it be too much to ask Americans to do more of their exploring on foot, to sacrifice their Trail Blazers and their Expeditions, their Navigators and Escalades. Could we as a people give up four of our eight cylinders so the Tundra isn't just the name of a sports utility vehicle? There are good reasons to own massive vehicles, but most people don't have one.

"Drill baby drill! Drill baby drill!" That's the cheer that came up from a gang of ten-gallon hat-wearing-delegates on the Republican convention floor. Why not just drop the dr and make it, "Kill baby kill! Kill baby kill".

My old friend Kathy, a physics major and Alaska-born native says the Polar Bears are already a done deal. Recently, talking on the phone she asked if I had heard about the eight that were found swimming a hundred miles from the nearest ice. (Apparently, Polar Bears can only swim 30 miles before giving out with exhaustion.) Yes, global warming, which causes ice melt is another wonderful by-product of oil consumption.

Shall we go ahead and paint that last supper scene for all the animals? Who shall we have play the part of Jesus? Should we put the Polar Bear at the center of the table surrounded by his extinct disciples? The Siberian Tiger? The Asian Elephant? The Spotted Owl? If we put their heads on the wall can we genuflect and ask for their forgiveness? Ivory Billed Woodpecker? Passenger Pigeon? Blue Whale? Should we distinguish worth by size, ferocity, or beauty? Delta Smelt? Manatee? Canadian Lynx? What species gets to live? Do we even bother with plants? Giant Redwood?  Joshua Tree?

We can wring our hands and say the polar bear's demise is a shame and act like we had nothing to do with it or we can accept our responsibility and do our best to keep them alive and free.
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About Eric Robertson

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Eric Robertson is the author of Whatever Comes of Not Knowing. Former longtime resident, journalist and organizer in the Tenderloin he now teaches first-grade and lives in a house with a yard. Robertson's stories draw on observations of life in the inner city and on his early years growing up in the South.