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"All Causes Shall Give Way"

by Frances Lamberts

polar bears photo, Natural Resources Defense Council In an e-mail message March 19, Ian Thomas, GIS mapping specialist under contract to the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmed the suspicions of his firing from a research job at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. In several years under the contract, he had produced tens of thousands of maps showing wildlife density, distributions, and migration areas in the U.S. and other countries.

"Like rivers on the wing, birds from around the world flow onto ANWR's coastal plain each summer. Visitors include tundra swans, 30 species of shorebirds, and as many as 325,000 lesser snow geese that migrate to the 1002 area to fatten on tundra vegetation. While staging for their long journey south, the geese are so skittish that a disturbance two miles away will flush them. Airplanes routinely traveling to and from oil outposts could reduce the flock's feeding time, weight gain, and migration survival rates. Similar fears are voiced about the polar bears, musk-oxen, and other mammals that inhabit the 1002 during vital stages in their life cycles." -- Oil in the Wilderness: An Arctic Dilemma, December 1988 National Geographic
Arctic wildflowers
From existing, published sources such as Fish and Wildlife Service or Smithsonion documents, vegetation and satellite data, he had produced maps of migration patterns, route and use areas for major wildlife groups and populations. He had traced amphibians, mammals, birds-- main losers in the ongoing tragedy of planetary species extinction--on several continents. He had mapped all the national wildlife refuges and national parks in the lower US states, as well as bird species distributions in Alaska. Graphic compilations of current science data on animal wildlife, made available on-line for other researchers, wildlife and resource managers, and public use.

Our world is confronted with challenges never faced before. To meet them, it cannot do without best and current, scientific knowledge. Without it, citizens cannot appreciate magnitude of the challenges and needed actions. Policy makers will not be spurred to action, see possible and needed solutions, and cannot hope to make sound decisions. As Gro Harlem Brundtland suggested in an editorial in ’97, “politics that disregard science and knowledge will not stand the test of time. Indeed, there is no other basis for sound political decisions than the best available scientific evidence.”

One of his Alaska mammals maps was Thomas’ undoing. It showed the area in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain to which Porcupine caribou herds come each spring, from hundreds of miles away, to birth and nurse their young. It had been completed and gone on the web almost at the same time as policy makers in a new Administration were meeting to map the same area for oil development. Ill-fated timing, perhaps, but the industry’s lobbying effort to gain access to the Refuge lands had been intense and long, two decades long. The strategic investments in cultivating political allies had long been made, and seemed to have just paid off. The coveted price within reach. There would be no shyness about silencing scientists whose work and facts might have bearing on the sought-after decision.

For my own good, all causes shall give way

Such was Shakespeare’s tragic hero’s, Macbeth’s, determination seeing his purpose threatened when one “opponent,” Fleance to whom crown and royal power would eventually pass, had been left to escape the murderers. Macbeth, who held the power now, would not shun more bloodshed, nor indeed any “worst means” to seek assurance of reaching his goal.

The sandhill cranes which feed in Tennessee during the winter and nest and raise their young in the Refuge. Let them give way to oil rigs, to feed bloated-size cars and homes and refineries for a few months. The tundra swans and the skittish snow geese, the secretive loons. The swarms of shorebirds and other birds which, “like rivers on the wing” flock to the Refuge each summer from around the world. The golden eagles and snowy owls. Let them give way.

"We clearly have an obligation to safeguard the biosphere. It is our home, which we share with all other known life, each dependent upon the others. It supplies our sustenance and stores the legacies of evolution and human works. It provides opportunities for future generations... to enjoy the wonder, beauty, and variety of nature." -- Russell W. Peterson, President Emeritus National Audubon Society
polar bears
The polar bears that come ashore in the fall to build their dens and raise their young.

The wolves, grizzly bears, foxes, musk oxen, lemmings, rare sheep. Let them give way to rigs, roads, service planes, oil “infrastructure.”

The Caribou calving grounds, sacred land to the Gwich’in Eskimo people because it is “where life begins.”

Let them all give way to my own causes—keeping oil flowing, industry coffers filling, political allies’ rewards coming.

The Gwich’in and other, native Eskimo peoples whose life is being changed mandatorily. The American people, whose public lands are despoiled, for profit and power for a few. The scientists silenced because their information is unwelcome in political power circles. The integrity of the policy making process destroyed. The democratic experiment at stake.

For my own good, all causes shall give way.


anwr, digital imagery Check ACR archives for other commentaries by Dr. Lamberts.

icon graphics above: Sierra Club



text © Frances Lamberts, computer graphics © Jeannette Harris, April 2001. All rights reserved.
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