Arctic Refuge needs to be protected

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge offers a home for animals that should not be destroyed by oil drilling.

A stretch of land composed of nearly 17 million acres in Alaska is considered a U.S. treasure because of its vast wildlife, beautiful scenery and natural diversity, but the beauty and richness of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska may soon be corrupted by oil mines and gas drilling.

The future of the Arctic Refuge has been debated on for the past 40 years, but has remained protected. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s fate is once again under debate and may lie in the hands of Senate Republicans, who oppose the Senate Democrats’ vote to block the oil drilling and coal mining.

The budget, which is now under consideration, could allow oilmen access to the land. This access would be a potentially enormous loss for the environment and without significant revenue generated, could be an even bigger loss for the economy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a new government analysis places revenue from a possible oil mine in the refuge at $37.5 million, a significant decrease from a previously predicted $1.8 billion. The money that could be made from the oil mine is not significant enough to compromise one of the world’s most unique and untouched habitats.

If this habitat is mined, it will undoubtedly add a significant amount of greenhouse gas to Earth’s atmosphere. The Times compared the mission to adding 23 million more cars on the road and opening up 820 new coal-fired power plants.

The scope of destruction this project could cause is unimaginable. This oil mine project should be the opposite of a goal for politicians who claim to care about improving the Earth’s climate change issue.

The next step for this debate is to reach the Senate energy committee, chaired by Alaskan Lisa Murkowski. National Public Radio reports that Murkowski is a supporter of the oiling project and believes the industrial footprint in the refuge can be small. However, by drilling a preserve the size of South Carolina, it is hard to picture a small result.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not only a holding place for coal, oil and gas, but home to a unique ecosystem.  If we claim to care about the environment, we need to leave this holding place alone and let it thrive in its natural state.

It is time for those on both sides of the aisle who have any form of respect for the Earth’s climate to speak up and fight for the protection of one of the world’s most treasured landscapes. If we want to maintain a habitable Earth, we must look after our natural environments.

Samatha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications