The Polar Bear and Senator Specter


Dear friends, dear earthlings —

On March 14, as the vote in the US Senate drew near on whether to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Sierra Club sponsored a demonstration outside Senator Specter's office in the Federal Building of Philadelphia, to urge him to oppose the provision that would make drilling possible.

The Sierra Club invited me to be one of the speakers. They also invited one of the polar bears that will be endangered if ANWR is drilled - or least some human who looks very bear-like. (See our photos.)

This is what I said:

Not only will drilling despoil Alaska, it will add to the power of Big Oil. Even though the reserves there are miniscule, drilling will encourage more dependence on oil, more addiction to the oil economy, rather than encouraging people to go BEYOND OIL for future energy needs.

Oil was the biggest reason for the disastrous US war in Iraq, and is the biggest cause of global scorching. And as the world's oil reserves reach their peak, and massive new consumers of oil like China begin to press for a share of those reserves, the pressure to go to war over oil will grow still greater.

If the addiction to oil is endangering the web of life on our planet and pressing us into war, it would seem to make sense to find other sources of and approaches to energy.

But instead Senators like Specter vote against bills like McCain-Lieberman that move even minimally and slowly Beyond Oil.


Addiction means that we consume more and more of a substance that is convenient and pleasurable — even though we know it is lethal.

America is an oiloholic nation. Oil can be useful in reasonable amounts, but our society has become addicted to it. Even tobacco had a reasonable place when Native Americans used it - sparingly — in sacred ritual. But many of us became addicted to it.

Drilling at ANWR would be like dealing with tobacco addiction by keeping one last cigarette in your pocket till you need a drag, or dealing with alcohol addiction by taking just one last drink from the secret stash of rotgut gin.

The only real cure is Drug Rehabilitation.

But as might be expected, the Drug Lords of OILOHOLISM — the Big Oil companies and their political allies - aren't interested in going BEYOND OIL.

Why should they? They addict us and then get fat off the addiction. So they pretend that global scorching and the climate crisis are a phony fear. And they urge that even pristine wilderness be ruined for their sake - not because a serious amount of oil will come from the shattered wild, but because they can demonstrate and multiply their power.

Is Senator Specter in their pocket? We shall soon see.

It turned out that Senator Specter delivered a crucial vote in the 51-49 result - siding with the oil companies, against the Alaska wilderness and the people of the planet. Seven Republicans voted No on drilling, but Senator Specter - who describes himself as a moderate Republican and has bewailed how few there are in the Senate — abandoned the others when his vote made a difference.

He voted to despoil the earth that my grandchildren will live in. Has he realized that his own grandchildren will have to live there too?

Should we go further to call that to his attention?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow