Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Obama Risks the Arctic and His Voter Base

Insights + Opinion
Obama Risks the Arctic and His Voter Base

Phil Radford

On Dec. 6, President Obama's staff held a hearing on their proposed 5 year oil leasing plan. A plan that would open up drilling in the Arctic. I was there with Cindy Shogan of Alaska Wilderness League, rallying people to urge the President to stop risking the Arctic and the support of young environmental voters.

When the BP Deepwater disaster happened, I saw firsthand the destruction that oil drilling causes on the environment.

Miles of oil-covered coastline destroyed the original beauty of the Gulf coast. Billions of dollars that people depended upon to feed their families were never earned. Oil-covered birds were suffering. Dolphins would swim near our Greenpeace ship under a sheen of oil. Around the Gulf, it was reported that when the dolphins surfaced, they would accidentally breathe in the oil, and you could hear them making a sound like coughing. The Gulf coast, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, fell further into despair. The people’s livelihoods—from fishing to tourism—were destroyed.

Now President Obama is proposing that we open Alaska for drilling, and in doing so, he is taking two monumental risks.

First, he is risking the fragile, untouched ecosystems that are more vulnerable to an oil spill than those in the Gulf. The Arctic is home to polar bears, bowhead whales, walruses, ice seals and hundreds of species of birds. The Coast Guard calls an oil spill in the Arctic “a nightmare scenario.” The reason that it will be so difficult, if not impossible, to “clean” an Arctic oil spill is because the area is pitch black for half of the year and the water is covered with sheets of floating ice. If BP could only clean about 3 percent of the oil spilled in the Gulf, it seems unlikely that Shell and Obama, in Arctic conditions, could do any better.

The second risk the President is taking is the fact that once again, like with his initial efforts to promote the Keystone Pipeline that would have shipped Tar Sands through the U.S., he is risking the hours, passion and contributions of his supporter base, particularly young voters.

These Arctic lease sales—not to mention previous decisions he has made that enable drilling in the Beaufort Sea—are potentially disastrous. They are disastrous for our environment and for the prospects of young Americans, who vote on the environment, supporting the President come election season.

It’s time to protect the Earth’s final frontier. We need an energy revolution and it needs to start right now. President Obama can help us take a step in the right direction by making sure the five year plan doesn’t include new arctic leases.

For more information, click here.

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less