Save the animals or save ourselves - if we can

As a young person growing up in Zuni, I remember when gas was around a dollar, or a little over a dollar per gallon. Back then, we were able to put $5 worth of gas in our old Dodge pickup and make it out to our sheep ranch and back (roughly 20 miles) and still have a little bit of gas left over. When gas eventually hit $2 a gallon, the way that my late father used to react, you'd think that the world was going to end. Then gas hit $3 a gallon, right around the time I traded in my old truck for a Ford F-250 truck. Today, $5 worth of gas doesn't even seem like enough to let my truck idle for two minutes, much less go anywhere! My, how times have changed!

For instance, I never thought I'd live to see the day when gas reached $4 a gallon, yet, we are now over that threshold on our way to $5 a gallon with seemingly no relief in sight. Or is there?

In recent weeks, there has been talk about the possibility of drilling for oil up in Alaska in order to reduce gas prices, but many wildlife advocates and environmental groups are against it. There are plenty of good reasons on both sides to argue for or against drilling for oil up in Alaska, but as with anything that affects multitudes of people, there will have to be a certain degree of sacrifice and compromise on both sides if there is going to be effective change. Granted, not everyone is going to be happy with the final outcome, but given the circumstances that most middle-class families are struggling to deal with, it may be the only possible solution.

Whether most people realize it or not, we are far too dependent on foreign oil that comes in from other countries. To date, the U.S. is paying around $145 per barrel of imported crude oil, and with an estimated 250 trillion registered vehicles in the U.S. alone (according to a 2006 U.S. Bureau of Transit Statistics report), the need for fuel is greatly outweighing our "supply" of foreign oil, which basically means that in order to pay for this expensive foreign oil, the cost is passed down to the consumer, who ultimately has no choice but to purchase $4 per gallon gasoline in order to drive to their jobs and provide for their families.

So where do the animals come in? As an animal lover, I'd hate to see any harm come to some of the beautiful creatures that inhabit the areas presently under consideration for oil drilling. Nor would I wish for the picturesque landscape of Alaska to be marred forever. Given my past work in helping to save the sacred Zuni Salt Lake from coal mining, I do possess a certain empathy for environmental causes. However, I also consider myself a highly pragmatic individual, and therein lies the problem.

Alaska has some of the most scenic forests and landscapes in the U.S. and is home to some of the most beautiful creatures on earth, most famous of which are caribou, eagles and polar bears. But in light of our current gas "crisis," I feel that it would be practical if we do look into drilling for oil up in Alaska and proactively research any and all possible outcomes and attempt to mitigate any potential harm to the environment as much as possible. Despite the fact that a few animals will be temporarily dislocated and some landscapes might become marred, it's a price that we all (unfortunately) have to pay for being too dependent on foreign oil. It's simply one of the sacrifices that we need to make and environmental groups will have to make some compromises.

Again, no solution will be 100 percent perfect, but perhaps in time, humankind will catch up with itself and decide to come up with more environmentally sound solutions to this crisis. But in the meantime, the animals seem to have the perfect solution - take only what you need from nature and leave the rest of it for others to use. Until we realize the merit in this approach and turn away from the need to make a profit, we will always be dependent on the crutch that is foreign oil.

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