ANWR drilling: A blow to the imagination
November 25, 2005
There’s something about the idea of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that seems to get people up in arms, and rightfully so. On the face of it, there are those who are against it, and those who are for it. But there is, spatially and intellectually, so much more. The parameters of the human imagination seem to clearly limit our ability to think much further beyond what we already know. We presume we are very sharp by giving ourselves a lot of choices, but upon examination, our choices aren’t all that many. Salt or pepper. Right or left brain thought/emotion? Is the answer yes or no? I’d like a Coke. Is Pepsi OK? Are you a Republican or Democrat? Did you or didn’t you? If you think about it, we can’t help but categorize our lives as “either/or.” But for all of us, including those who wear at least one watch (and who may also secretly harbor another in an ankle band), there is always a part of the brain saved for our consciousness to tumble and fall into when the pressure becomes too great. Whether in reality or fantasy, the escape many times is out the back door, through the gate and into the freedom and freshness of the wilderness. Maybe we haven’t actually been to the wilderness, haven’t seen “wilderness” except in photographs, but even that minute taste can give our imaginations the freedom to come up with a spectrum of nuances beyond the humdrum and banal existence of our daily lives that has a rejuvenating effect on our souls. It’s that special place we save in our minds, different for each of us, but somehow oddly pretty much the same as the next guy’s, a place where we can let our cloak of getting along in the world fly off our shoulders and we become who we really are. Our own best friend, the person we listen to all the time, our children’s wise parent, with all the love and none of the tensions, and whatever else we can conjure up, including the feeling of “wild.” Why weren’t you at the meeting? Have you finished the analysis on the new project? Who cares, don’t call me again. I’m slogging miles on a pair of snowshoes through the heart of the Maroon-Bells Wilderness Area, or I’m behind a team of dogs in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or maybe portaging a sleek canoe across a short hump to the next lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. With a smile, I might be going left and right down Garrett Peak, out Snowmass way. It’s a mistake for politicians to think they can get away with violating the pristine nature of ANWR – it’s somewhat akin to saying they would like to do a lobotomy on our collective brain – just for the sake of more oil. So few of us have been to ANWR that numbers can’t make a difference in that regard, but we’ve all been there in our visions and inspirations, and even without the actual experience, we can feel the stunning beauty of the land. To threaten to take this away from us (forget the minuscule percentages of devastation hawked by proponents) is to threaten to take away a part of the bedrock of the American Dream, the part of the dream that says politicians and profit-mongers must be prevented from screwing up the entire country. If we allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, every Halliburton-, Peter Kiewit-, Exxon- and British Petroleum-style company in the world will be lurking in the shadows of the legislation, trying to figure out a way to get its share of the spoils. It will be a rape of the land, no matter how responsibly anyone thinks it can be done, and if we give that away, the ugly and scarifying blow will forever dilute the collective imagination of the entire U.S. citizenry. Tony Vagneur thinks it’s damned near too late to save what’s left. Read him here on Saturdays and send comments to email@example.com.