For most Americans polar bears are animals they see from time to time in the zoo or maybe on a PBS special. In other words, the polar bear is totally remote, whereas the things that need to be fueled with oil–one’s car, one’s home, one’s business–are all quite near and dear. Hence, how much do we really care about the plight of the polar bear or what happens way way up there in Alaska? The answer to that rhetorical question is, of course, not enough.
Frances Beinecke, President of Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), reminded me in an email that this year is the 50th Anniversary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Sadly, her occasion for doing so wasn’t a party announcement, but a grave letter of concern, asking for help now that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has given Shell the green light begin exploratory drilling in the area. Because what we care about as a nation, now as always, is the discovery and removal of natural resources.
According to The Guardian:
The Minerals Management Service, part of the federal Interior Department, yesterday gave Shell the green light to begin exploratory wells off the north coast of Alaska in an Arctic area that is home to large numbers of endangered bowhead whales and polar bears, as well as walruses, ice seals and other species. The permission would run from July to October next year, though Shell has promised to suspend operations from its drill ship from late August when local Inuit people embark on subsistence hunting.
Environmentalists condemned the decision to allow drilling, saying it would generate industrial levels of noise in the water and pollute both the air and surrounding water. Rebecca Noblin, an Alaskan specialist with the conservation group the Centre for Biological Diversity, said: “We’re disappointed to see the Obama administration taking decisions that will threaten the Arctic. It might as well have been the Bush administration.”
That’s damning criticism and fans of The President might bristle at the suggestion. But facts are facts.
In related news, Willamette Week recently ran an article that asked people who supported Obama for President what they think now, one year into his run. Lawyer and peace activist, John Bradach, isn’t pleased.
I was disappointed when he adopted the war team that Bush had left in place. For Obama to take those guys on, he really has allowed himself to be maneuvered into adopting those policies. And thatâ€™s not why I voted for him. Now Iâ€™m really disappointed, more than cautiously disappointed.
I do not want to hear Barack Obama justifying war, period. I am tired of wasting American kids on that war and on that policy, which is not going to win and will just be an indefinite commitment of American blood and resources.
Obama promised change, but change isn’t easy to implement in Washington, DC. But there’s more to it than that. Policy wise, change was always a false promise from Obama, a centrist Democrat.
Obama has been building consensus since his days on the Harvard Law Review, and he’s not about to veer from that practice now. Yet to truly change the way things are, the art of compromise itself needs to be compromised.