Encouraged in Anchorage
Header Image: Anonymous Security Guard
Written by: Malkolm Boothroyd, Campaigns Coordinator
The US Government must of worked really hard to find such an unappealing photo of the Arctic Refuge. #savethegravel
The fingerprints of the fossil fuel industry cover Anchorage, Alaska. BP logos decorate the airport and Exxon Mobil’s name is carved on the plaques beside commemorative trees. The city’s convention centre sits in the shadow of the ConocoPhillips skyscraper. That’s why I was shocked that nobody from any of the oil companies showed up to the convention centre to testify in favour of oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the heart of the Porcupine caribou herd’s calving grounds.
Indigenous leaders and environmental campaigners have so successfully illustrated the importance of the Arctic Refuge for human rights and the Porcupine caribou, that some of the most powerful oil companies are wary of associating themselves with the issue. Instead contractors and industry lobbyist groups spoke in their place, reiterating talking points of “responsible oil and gas development,” “world class industrial safety” and “I’m a third-generation Alaskan” with such predictability that I wished I’d drawn up bingo cards. Still, we outnumbered the oil and gas advocates almost two-to-one at the hearing.
Indigenous people travelled from as far away as Kaktovik, St. Paul Island and Old Crow to speak for Indigenous rights and protection of the Arctic Refuge. Chris Rider and I made the trip from Whitehorse, to urge the US Government to include transboundary issues be included in the scope of the review. (Add your voice here, it will be super helpful!) Chris spoke about the vulnerability of caribou to industrial development in their calving grounds. I described childhood experiences travelling in the Refuge, and about how caribou, bears, whales and migratory birds do not recognize the Alaska-Canada border.
I left Anchorage empowered. Hearing the powerful words of so many Indigenous leaders, and meeting with the Alaska Wilderness League, The Wilderness Society, Trustees for Alaska and Earthjustice reminded me about how strong our movement is. If I was an oil company I’d be worried too.