Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alaskan Issues, From My Soapbox (long)

From a friend:

What do Alaskans really think of Sarah Palin, aerial wolf hunting, and oil drilling? I have a feeling that Alaska has a culture that we New Yorkers don't really understand.

-A

A,

Maybe you shouldn't be asking me. My opinions seem to be very different than a lot of Alaskans!

Sarah Palin -- hard to say. She was everybody's darling when she was elected 2 (3?) years ago, but she has lost some favor since then. I know a lot of people in the oil industry don't care for her because they feel she mishandled the gas pipeline and because she raised taxes on the oil companies. Most people who don't work for the oil industry want to stick it to them, however, so they were in favor of that (never mind that the oil industry pretty much single handedly funds everything in this stupid state. Whatever happened to not biting the hand that feeds you?) Honestly, she hasn't done much else, except support a bill to prevent same-sex partner benefits if you work for the state government and get involved in Troopergate.

I think she is losing popularity up here because she is involved in Troopergate and people are pretty fed up with corrupt politicians. Also, it makes her look like a liar, since she's all "I helped get rid of corruption in the government!" Her inexperience makes her look like a country bumpkin and I think people in the state will really begin to resent that. But again, it's hard to say.

Personally, I think she's an inexperienced, ultra-conservative dingbat who got elected because she was pretty. Also, she's a lying liar who lies, in my opinion.

Aerial wolf hunting -- this is a measure put into place for predator control. If you talk to people who live out in the bush (the remote areas of Alaska) they are pretty much in support of it because they rely on caribou/moose herds for subsistence. I guess it's only for Fish and Wildlife personnel (in other words, Joe Hunter can't just go out and shoot wolves from his plane).

However, I am not a fan. There is a lot of hunting abuse/game mismanagement that goes on in the villages and I do not think that aerial hunting is justified. If people are truly relying on this for subsistence, then they will learn to manage the herds. Predators get out of control because natural conditions allow it. Aerial hunting is just a way to mess with natural processes. There was a case recently where some people from a village went out and slaughtered a bunch of caribou, leaving the carcasses to rot on the tundra. That kind of disrespect for the natural environment indicates to me that people don't really know how to manage their subsistence living, and aren't being encouraged to learn it by their villages. Aerial hunting is just a way to make life easier for them, not true game management.

Oil drilling -- most Alaskans are in favor of this. Like I mentioned above, the oil/gas industry is pretty much the only thing we've got going for us besides tourism. Alaskans (and I can pretty much say this across the board) resent Outsiders coming up and getting involved in something they know nothing about because of some t.v. commercial or whatever. ANWR was a big freaking deal in the Lower 48, but not as much up here. The environmental footprints of the oil platforms are surprisingly small. I visited Prudhoe Bay, and while there is a lot of industry up there, there are also a lot of environmental regulations and the wildlife seems unaffected for the most part. Also, the area that ANWR covers is a natural wilderness, but no one ever goes there. It's not like Yellowstone -- it's remote and very unfriendly. Plus, a lot of it is boggy and unpleasant. There is some hiking/hunting/rafting, but the cost to get there is prohibitive and the remote location makes it kind of dangerous. So the whole idea of drilling in ANWR ruining this beautiful pristine wilderness is blown a little out of proportion.

The other side of this is that I don't know if it's worth the cost. There is no indication of how much oil is down there. People in favor of drilling say there's a lot but the truth is, they really don't know. I think the most telling indication that it's an uncertain resource is that the oil companies aren't pushing it more. Trust me, if there was really a giant lake of oil down there, we would already be drilling. The oil companies have a lot of dough to spend on lobbies in Washington and if they wanted something done, it would get done.

I would not say that Alaska has a culture that New Yorkers don't understand -- I would say that Alaska has a culture that anyone from the Lower 48 doesn't understand. As a state, we are pretty marginalized up here. There are plenty of people who don't even know Alaska is a state! We get a lot of crap about Alaska being a big pork state, and yet most of our oil and fish goes to the Lower 48. Cost of living is fairly high, especially in the bush communities, because we have to ship a lot of things in. A lot of places won't even ship to Alaska! At the same time, the fact that we're different is something most people celebrate. Over the past few years we've started to get more Starbucks and Chili's, and that's kind of a bummer, IMO.

So, you probably got way more of an answer than you wanted. I'll be interested to see what happens after the election. Having Sarah Palin chosen as a VP candidate has put Alaska on the national radar. If McCain is not elected, will we drop back off? Or will things have changed forever? Hard to say.

Let me know if you have any more questions. :)

--L

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1 comment:

eaf said...

One thing folks ought to know about aerial hunting is that an initiative to ban aerial hunting failed a public vote in 2008. So the majority of (voting) Alaskans apparently are okay with the whole aerial wolf shoot thing.