"So what would happen if oil and gas development goes ahead on the coastal plain?" I asked.
"If?" Roger asked. "It already has! Just look at Prudhoe Bay and the National Petroleum Reserve," he said, pointing west. "Ninety-five percent of Alaska's Arctic coast is already open or in the process of being opened to oil and gas development. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is only 5 per cent of it, and it's all that's left!" Roger paused, then remembered the question. "What would happen?" He shook his head. "In terms of caribou and birds and wolves and bears, I'm not sure. Nobody is. But there would be no question the intent of the refuge would be violated. It was meant to be the ultimate symbol of human restraint. It was meant to be left untouched. Something sacred would be desecrated …" Roger grasped for a better way to express himself. "It would be like building a video arcade in the Sistine Chapel," he declared. "In a world filled with compromise, the refuge is one of the few sacrosanct things we have left."
– Being Caribou, Karsten Heuer
Something like 123,000 caribou migrate five months every year to arrive at the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, which is their chosen grounds for calving. Bears, wolves and birds follow the migration and depend on it for their own survival. All this has been going on for 27,000 years.
Below the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve lies a supply of oil that would fuel the United States for no more than six months. I don't even think it's worth the cost of the drilling and piping to extract it, let alone the cost of destroying a complex ecosystem. But some people do.
6 months v. 27,000 years.
How is it even a debate?