By Bruce Finley The Denver Post
Native Gwich’in leaders joined climate activists in Denver, London and Aberdeen, Scotland, on Monday to demand the fossil fuels giant BP back off plans to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Trump administration officials are pushing for a lease sale to exploit this fragile coastal refuge in northeastern Alaska that long has been held sacred by the Gwich’in Nation as “the place where life begins.”
“We pray for our way of life. This is a disaster in the making,” Aleta Ketzler, of Fort Yukon, Alaska, told Sierra Club and Stand.earth demonstrators who marched through rain from Commons Park to BP’s Lower 48 headquarters on Platte Street in Denver.
“Please stand with us, fight with us … and oppose any efforts to develop oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Ketzler said.
Congress has given green lights. Proponents say arctic drilling would generate jobs and revenues. But conservationists contend the refuge may not contain that much oil and that drilling would hurt wildlife habitat and people. Gwich’in lives revolve around hunting caribou that come from the Arctic coastal plain.
In Scotland, activists gathered at a BP meeting where executives faced a shareholder resolution to make sure new oil and gas drilling is consistent with the Paris agreement to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius. In London, Greenpeace blockaded BP offices.
In Denver, about 36 demonstrators marched under a banner that said “Arctic Drilling is Bad Business” as trucks bearing digital ads drove past BP’s shiny glass “BPX Energy” headquarters for onshore operations.
“We welcome discussion, debate, even peaceful protest, on the important matter of how we must all work together to address the climate challenge,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton said. “We review access and exploration possibilities worldwide and consider participating only if they are consistent with our business strategy, competitive with opportunities we have elsewhere and we are confident that we can operate safely and responsibly, meeting regulatory requirements and our own high standards.”
If BP moves ahead with drilling in the refuge, the industrial impact will kill lichen and other sensitive plants that caribou eat during calving, said Donald Tritt, a Gwich’in hunter and teacher from Arctic Village, Alaska, just south of Brooks Range mountains.
“We don’t want the caribou to get sick. That’s our greatest worry. Their migration routes would change,” he said. “We depend on that caribou herd for 80 percent of our diet. If it goes away, we have to depend on store-bought meat, which is super expensive.”
He added: “Everybody in the world now feels climate change. We all have the goal of making the Earth better. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is not the answer.”