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Valentines Day

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
February 14, 2000


Today is Valentines day. Chocolates will be bought, cards will be given, some will even receive roses. Romance and retail will rule the day. As sweet as it is endearing, this Hallmark holiday is an American tradition, and who am I to stand in the way of ritual? In that vein, today I am going to send the planet a Valentine in the form of civic participation. I know it's not candy, but it will have to do.

While sitting in traffic, how many of us think about caribou? You know, those migrating arctic herbivores with fuzzy horns and a taste for lichen. As much as we would like to divorce ourselves from the truth, our dependence on fossil fuels is threatening the breeding ground of this magnificent species. The question before Americans is how much our polluting lifestyle worth to us.

Most of you are probably thinking what does crawling around the San Diego's region, with a million other commuters, have to do with large mammals in the arctic circle. In a word? OIL. Currently ninety percent of the Alaska coastline is open to oil exploration or development. The remaining ten percent, the Northern coastal plain, was set aside by President Eisenhower on December 6, 1960, as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The reason this area was excluded from oil development was because this was, and still is, the breeding, and calving grounds for the porcipine caribou.

Currently, the majority of the Republican led Congress, including local representatives Randy Duke Cunningham, is calling for oil drilling in this arctic nursery. Drilling in this protected habitat would be a tragedy, the true tragedy being the fact best case scenarios predict that only a 9 month supply of fossil fuel is to be found beneath the calving grounds. Nine months, that's it. Imagine threatening a species with extinction, just to keep Americans sitting in traffic gridlock for another 9 months. Obviously the proponents of drilling have got their priorities mixed up.

About now you are probably wondering where the civic participation comes in. Personally I am going to contact Randy's office in Washington to remind him that he represents many people other than those who voted for him. Some of who believe President Eisenhower was right when he designated it a Wildlife Refuge in the first place. Representative Cunningham's number in Washington is 1-202-225-5452. Let Randy "Duke" know, that as tempting as that oil maybe, our national interests depend on a healthy environment. And that Porcipine Caribou depend on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for their very existence.

Tomorrow, February 15th, Los Angeles filmmaker Jeff Barrie will pass through San Diego as he begins a 4,500 mile bicycle journey across America in a grass-roots effort to protect Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from unnecessary oil development. Pedaling his bicycle from Los Angeles to Washington, DC, where the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is being decided, Barrie plans to show his film and collect thousands of letters from concerned viewers and deliver them to Congress when he arrives in DC.

The San Diego screening of - Arctic Quest: Our Search for Truth is PM tomorrow night at the City of San Diego's Environmental Services "Green" Building 9601 Ridgehaven Ct. For more information about the tour visit www.arcticquest.org. For local questions, contact the local hosts, San Diego EarthWorks, (858) 272-7370. How's that for a Valentine!

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