Trump’s ‘Reckless’ Arctic Drilling Plan Could Kill Region’s Polar Bears, Experts Warn
US President Donald Trump is causing controversy again – this time it’s over harming polar bears in favour of oil.
OK, so he’s not physically out there punching them in the face (he’s not the physical stamina for anything more strenuous than an afternoon of golf), but even worse is the implementation of his Arctic Drilling Plan.
According to Newsweek, activists have expressed grave concern for the Alaskan region where the proposed drilling will take place. Not only is it a protected landscape that looks set to be decimated at the hands of massive disturbance, it’ll endanger wildlife (like the rapidly decreasing population of polar bears), and negatively impact climate change in the process.
The beginning of this week saw the Trump administration take worrying steps towards opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in one of Alaska’s – and indeed America’s – few remaining untouched areas of wilderness that, if the US government gets its way, will cause irreparable damage.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has unveiled a leasing programme that will see an eye-popping 1.5 million acres of the refuge’s coastal plain opened up to oil drilling companies. Essentially, the man-made obliteration of a pristine area of the planet will be fair game to the highest bidder.
Oil and gas exploration will be the aim of Bernhardt’s vision, declaring it ‘marks a new chapter in American energy independence’, despite the resulting environmental fallout.
Like drilling anywhere, it results in more greenhouse gases, meaning indigenous people that live there and conservationists will no doubt join forces to protest the decision.
‘The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the country’s largest wildlife refuge and one of the last pristine places we have left,’ explained Kristen Monsell, senior attorney at conservation nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity.
‘It’s home to an amazing array of wildlife, including polar bears, caribou, Arctic foxes, brown and black bears, muskoxen, rare plants and about 200 species of birds,’ she added.
‘The coastal plain is the birthing grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd and the most important land-based denning habitat for polar bears. The fact that all this drilling will happen in what is supposed to be a refuge for wildlife just adds insult to injury.’
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how wildlife will be affected by the oil drilling plans, as roads and airstrips are built for worker and equipment transportation, not to mention the removal of any oil they steal (sorry, successfully drill for) or if – god forbid – any of it is was to spill.
Monsell continued, ‘This reckless plan risks killing and injuring numerous species, including polar bears, caribou and migratory birds. The large vehicles used in seismic and other oil and gas activity can kill and harm polar bears by crushing their dens. Noise pollution can disrupt essential behaviours like breeding and feeding.’
However, the problem for Trump is the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which explicitly prevents human activity from injuring, displacing, harassing, or altering a polar bear’s natural behaviour in any way. Even if an oil spill doesn’t occur, to say hundreds of people, vehicles and equipment entering a previously untouched area and it not affect a single polar bear seems an impossibility.
Monsell outlined the life-threatening nature of even the smallest spill, explaining, ‘Polar bears must maintain a pristine hair coat as insulation against the cold. When a polar bear comes into contact with spilled oil, it can soak a polar bear’s fur and persist for several weeks, where it will be groomed and ingested, irritate the skin, and destroy the insulating abilities of the fur.’
Studies suggest that if oil spills continue and human expansion and development goes unchecked in such areas, many bird species in particular will become extinct within the next 85 years.
So there you have it, Donald Trump’s now going after the polar bears.
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