An Environmental Devastation
On November 3, much more than the presidency of the United States will be disputed. Climate Change, social justice and relations with Canada are at stake in Alaska. All this could explode if Trump wins, as he wants to as soon as possible undertake oil and gas exploration that threatens to ruin the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This is one of the largest untouched ecosystems in the US, on the planet, and borders neighboring Canada.
In the term that is now ending, Donald Trump has terminated a century of environmental protections, all of which has been supported by five presidents before him, three Republicans (Harding, Ford and Bush) and two Democrats (Clinton and Obama). One hundred years of protection to ten Alaskan nature reserves of bears, wolves, reindeer, caribou, porcupines, migratory birds, thousands of fish and various marine species, terrestrial and underwater flora that are unique.
Among these ten reserves of biodiversity in Alaska is the largest in the United States, and one of the largest and most important in the world: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It is located in the northeast part of the state and is a “twin brother” with Ivvavik National Park, Vuntut National Park, and the Yukon Territory, in Canada. A vast Canadian wilderness of wildlife, including the Kluane National Park and Reserve and protected by the Ottawan Government.
If Trump is reelected president, this gigantic US reserve of biodiversity will be doomed to hopeless degradation by oil and gas exploration. Trump wants to implement them without even waiting for the end of 2021, as required by the law that he himself had promoted.
The environmental catastrophe would be irreversible for the survival of twenty billion birds of ten thousand different species, five thousand of them migratory; for nine hundred and fifty thousand caribou, grouped in thirty-two herds; for thirty thousand grizzly bears, the subspecies of the brown bear that inhabits the most of Alaska, and for a huge variety of the most spectacular wild animals of the Arctic, among them thirty-seven classes of land mammals, forty-two species of fish and eight types of marine mammals, as well as huge extensions of forests of great timber richness.
A breath of fresh air
If Biden wins, there will be room for hope, because it will be like “a breath of fresh air” in the White House, which to protect itself Alaska needs. The Democratic candidate has promised that if elected he will use two billion dollars to fight against Climate Change; will recover all protection policies in this Arctic region and will bring the United States back to the Paris Agreement, which is the first universal and legally binding pact on Climate Change, adopted at the Paris Climate Conference in December 2015.
“The road will not be easy at all, but there is still possibility and it will have important support, not only from ordinary citizens, but also from large companies, to avoid an environmental catastrophe”, said The New York Times this summer, in a harsh editorial against Trump’s environmental management, referring to an eventual election victory for Joe Biden.
“Green investment awareness”
These large companies that the New York Times mentions are powerful companies focused on ESG investment criteria, the “green investment consciousness”, that currently moves more than 7.4 trillion dollars in assets. It is a socially responsible investment (SRI), with environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria, to generate competitive long-term financial returns and positive social impact.
The five major oil companies in the world, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total, known as the “Big Five”, are not strangers to this “green trend”. Hence its “face lift” with campaigns in favor of renewable energy. However they have spent about a billion dollars in the last five years (those that have elapsed since the 2015 Paris Agreement) to hinder environmental policies that obstruct their interests with their ‘lobbies’ of influence, and they are now debating what more they could do.
Fear of a social rebellion
The “Big Five” fear that these oil and gas exploration will be the trigger of social unrest that is beyond their control and undermines their corporate image. Revolts led by naturalist and environmental groups and by the Gwich’in Indians, who are the ethnic minority that has lived in this area for thousands of years. For them, the prospects would violate their “sacred territory” and would be an attack on their rights, their culture and their way of life, as explained by Bernadette Demientieff, leader of the Gwich’in Executive Committee.
Protests by native and environmental groups could erupt in Alaska and they could spread through Idaho, Montana or North Dakota and spread throughout the country with the mobilization of other Inuit minorities (Inupiat, Yupik, Aleuts, Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian ...), other ethnic groups and other environmental groups. All this, in addition to the tensions with the Canadian government of Justin Trudeau, a liberal, who has already issued serious warnings to the White House.