Recently, President Obama protected nearly all the Arctic Ocean and much of the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern coast of the U.S. against future oil drilling leases in the protected waters. Though this measure does not affect current drilling operations and permits, it will prevent new leases from being created and hopefully protect these areas from the adverse effects of oil drilling. Canada’s own prime minister followed suit and this joint effort to protect the water is a significant stop on oil drilling in the area.
Now, when I see events like this happening in the world I raise a cheer for the wild and am proud of my president to see that he cares and listens to the woes of the environment. But, many times I am caught in the same moment wondering how it really affects me. Beyond moving from foreign oil and other politically driven aspects of oil drilling, I wonder how that single world environment affects my life and livelihood. In the end, I ask, Why should I care?
In pursuit of this question I raised several answers that directly apply to my life and the way I see the world.
One, I now have the opportunity within the next five years, to go see the land myself in a minimally affected state of existence. The waters are generally pristine as of right now due to a few gas companies failing to find oil deposits that are worth the effort of drilling to them. Though there are a few leases on the land, much of it is untouched by the oil machines and thus the and has a significantly lowered danger where oil spills and leaks are concerned. The flora and fauna in the area are bountiful and pure, and the waters have no oil slick or deadly sheen floating on the surface. I care because I have the option, given time and money, to venture out to the waters of the arctic and partake in its unique beauty. With oil rigs and companies unable to make new endeavors, the number of existing leases will lower and lower until perhaps all of these protected waters are safe for a time.
Two, every environment matters. It would be a folly for me to believe only the prairies and Rockies of Colorado deserve the right for environmental safety, when there are many various ecosystems around the world that deserve to be protected. Whether it is at home or abroad, an environmentalist should see all global ecosystems as equal. Just because my current station in life puts me nowhere near the Arctic waters, does not mean that I should take an insular view on event happening there. There are local tribes that rely on the waters, deep water corals that thrive in it, and countless endangered and non-endangered species living in these biodiversity hot-spots. They live, they are wild, and they are part of the environment that I serve to protect.
Three, even if we look only at the commercial fishing industry, it is painfully apparent that over-fishing of our global waters is having a severe impact on aquatic environments around the world. The waters protected now are home to large populations of deep water corrals that are in turn the home and breeding grounds for a large number of commercial fish species such as Rockfish, Atka mackerel, walleye pollock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, sablefish, flatfish, and even species of crabs. Deep water corral tends not to build large traditional reefs but pop up in large populations as “mounds.” These mounds take many years to develop and are generally underappreciated in the coral community. Their importance is not to be taken lightly and the protection of the waters by the Obama administration will hopefully protect these sensitive ocean organisms.
As I continued to look and think, I realized that the reason why I care about the arctic waters is because I should. The positive reasons for attempting to protect the arctic biodiversity is not something to be taken lightly, and the incoming president would be wise to come to the same realization.