www.nytimes.com

America’s wildest place is open for business

If you've never heard of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, you're not alone. But it deserves our attention, now more than ever.


Twenty years ago, in July 1997, I toured the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska with then-Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and a gaggle of reporters and agency staffers. What most impressed me, other than the vast number of loons, ducks and other migrating waterfowl, was the clearly visible network of tracks criss-crossing the tundra – a legacy of 1960s-era truck traffic probing for oil.

The vividness of those tracks some 40 years later stands as testament to our inability to understand our impact in our world. And this 1998 editorial from the New York Times, on the eve of Babbitt's decision to develop the reserve, gives weight to the notion that once land is developed, it's gone forever. But protection needs constant vigilance.

The whole debate again reminds me of President Johnson's words:

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it…. Once our natural splendor is destroyed, it can never be recaptured. And once man can no longer walk with beauty or wonder at nature, his spirit will wither and his sustenance be wasted."

Print Friendly and PDF
SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
From our Newsroom

A toxic travelogue

The first four stops on a tour tracing American history through its pollution.

Breast cancer: Hundreds of chemicals identified as potential risk factors

Researchers find nearly 300 chemicals linked to breast cancer-contributing hormones in everyday products, and call for a renewed focus on women's exposure risks.

My island does not want to be resilient. We want a reclamation.

Unlearning academic jargon to understand and amplify beauty and power in Puerto Rico.

Measuring Houston’s environmental injustice from space

Satellites show communities of color are far more exposed to pollution in Houston, offering a potential new way to close data gaps and tackle disparities.

Fractured: The body burden of living near fracking

EHN.org scientific investigation finds western Pennsylvania families near fracking are exposed to harmful chemicals, and regulations fail to protect communities' mental, physical, and social health.

The real story behind PFAS and Congress’ effort to clean up contamination: Op-ed

Former EPA official Jim Jones sets the record straight on 'the forever chemical' as lawmakers take up the PFAS Action Act

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.