Oil on Ice

Oil on Ice

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John Ahni Schertow
March 29, 2008
 

Oil on Ice is a one-hour documentary that examines the issues surrounding the exploitation of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

The US Government maintains the region is a barren wasteland, as if to say “how can we not take the oil? There’s nothing there but snow!”

However, the claim is no more than a baseless lie. The truth, is that the entire region is teeming with diversity. This becomes apparent when then long winter ends and “its land, mountains, rivers and seas explode with life.” From that point on, “a combination of continual sunlight, abundant plant growth, and rich nutrients generate an astonishing quantity and diversity of living things. This arctic coastal plain of the Refuge becomes the feeding and breeding grounds for over 180 species of resident and migratory birds, a herd of 130,000 caribou, all three species of North American bears, plus Dall sheep, muskox, weasels, lemmings, wolves, foxes, wolverine, and porcupine.”

The plans to exploit the oil, while only promising to fuel US energy needs for 6 months, would seriously jeopardize this diversity, especially the Porcupine Caribou Herd – which is essential to the nutritional, cultural and spiritual needs of the Gwich’in Athabascan Indigenous People of northeast Alaska and northwest Canada. This is discussed in depth within the report, A Moral Choice for the United States (pdf), authored by the Gwich’in Steering Committee in 2005.

According to the Oil on Ice website, the Gwich’in are themselves “greatly concerned about the integrity of the caribou calving grounds on the north slope of the wildlife refuge. For them the coastal plain where caribou calve is sacred ground. They call it “the place where life begins.”

“Unlike other Alaska Natives, who, under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, receive revenue from oil and other resources through Native Corporations, the Gwich’in have chosen to maintain their traditional way of life and to exercise their hunting, fishing and gathering rights. They know that money is no substitute for a herd of caribou. No job can replace their culture that depends upon every aspect of their relationship with caribou, from the hunt to the feast to the making of clothing, tools, and other objects from the animal’s remains–skin, hooves, intestines, and all. In 1988, the Gwich’in Indians from Alaska and Canada declared their support for prohibiting development in the caribou calving grounds with the intention of making the entire Refuge a designated National Wilderness area.”

Despite this, the government is as dedicated as ever to begin exploiting ANWR.

To learn how you can help prevent them from doing so, please see the action page at www.oilonice.org/act/

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