Don't spoil Alaska

Letter to the editor

Posted: Thursday, June 24, 2004

I read with great disappointment about the approval of the Kensington gold mine's draft Clean Water Act permit. It seems to me that some in Alaska (and Washington, D.C.) do not appreciate the many wonderful and beautiful natural areas they have around them, including the Berners Bay area. In 2001 and 2002, I spent several months working as a volunteer in Juneau, though I am a native of Ohio - one of the most industrialized states in the nation, home of the Rust Belt. I know firsthand the effects of this kind of industrialization.

Where I live, we enjoy smoggy, brown skies on hot summer days; wilderness consists of a few species of birds and squirrels, along with maple trees that line our streets, meticulously planted by the city; overcrowding in cities, urban sprawl, rivers and streams used as sewage lines, higher asthma rates and other breathing problems, and more are all common here. I grew up in these conditions and accepted them as the norm.

Then I arrived in Juneau to find things are a bit different. The air and water are clean. Brown and black bear - near extinction in most parts of the country - roam in the highest concentration in North America. Cities and towns are smaller and more communally focused. In other words, Juneauites have it great compared to many of us in the industrialized Midwest.

However, with the policy of industrialization promoted by Gov. Murkowski and his friends at Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation, this could all drastically change. The things I appreciated in Alaska - the beauty and wildness - could all easily turn into the things that disgust me with the Rust Belt.

Are these Alaskans more interested in making a few dollars than preserving and maintaining millions and millions of years of balance and life? It's as if these profiteers expect Mother Nature to move out of the way so money can be made, while no one really realizes that we humans are a part of nature; as we destroy nature for the sake of profit, we also destroy our home and ourselves. There's no way around - we rely on this planet to survive. And as we let one bad environmental policy slide, then another, then another, we'll soon realize that we don't have much of a planet left.

This is a lesson that many Alaskans, at least policymakers in Alaska (as well as in D.C.), have yet to learn: Appreciate what you have before it's all gone.

Michael Balonek

Toledo, Ohio

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