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Community Perspective

What will you choose?

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This Hour (of the lease sale)

So let us continue to work together, because when we are together there is a kind of strength that we get from each other … let us walk together, and don’t get weary.

—Coretta Scott King (1927-2006)

 

Astonishing places to walk

or float, mush or ski, see

from up in the sky

or down on the tundra

in the blowing wind

and snow, the white-hot sun, the fog or rain –

 

spirit and rarity incarnate:

precipitous, intricate, shape-shifting.

 

At some points

along the Haul Road

(that thin, hard line to Prudhoe Bay)

a person can toss a rock

from the Gates into the Refuge,

dash across the chip-seal,

and toss the rock back.

 

Gates of the Arctic National Park

and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

one fully protected, the other not.

 

Shall we choose (we Homo sapiens,

we singular, powerful species

called mortal human beings)

 

To keep one place whole

Surrender the other?

 

Pass one place on

to the seven generations

Puncture the other?

 

Protect one intact arctic

and sub-arctic habitat

from industrial development

Change money in the other?

 

Honor, like a kiss, one promise

to the world and ourselves

Betray the other?

 

Sense the pricelessness

of migrations and freedom,

breeding and denning and nesting grounds,

diversity and biological richness,

the kingdom, power, and glory

of Nature, and of silence 

Yet crucify it?

 

This is religious imagery, yes,

struck like an iron anvil deep

in the hearts and minds

of us all. This is a crucial battle,

 

and not just for the Refuge.

 

This is one of those moments

we hear about in history,

when women and children and men

must take sides and stand

for what they believe in –

this week, this day, this hour.

 

Will you choose to walk

because you like to walk

and because walking is healthful

and invigorating and, yes, you believe

 

that walking is power

 

and walking expresses

the desire of the people?

 

Or will you choose to sit

and drive on by

in your hard-earned automobile or pickup truck,

hauling the Refuge with you –

 

as if it belonged to you,

as if it were yours to give away?

 

Carolyn Kremers lives and writes in Fairbanks. Her books include Place of the Pretend People: Gifts from a Yup’ik Eskimo Village, The Alaska Reader: Voices from the North, and Upriver.

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