The Willow Project is environmentally and socially unjust

On March 13, the Biden Administration approved the Willow Project, an oil drilling project in the North Slope of Alaska. The project, which will contribute a great amount to the United States’ already existing carbon footprint issue, is both environmentally and socially irresponsible, and should not be allowed to start. 

Over the next 30 years, the Willow Project seeks to drill in an area that contains 600 million barrels of oil. It is estimated that this amount of oil will produce around 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution every year. During a time in which the climate crisis is eminent, this is an unacceptable number. The Arctic is currently warming at a rate four times that of the rest of the world, and the Willow Project would only worsen this. 

While the project does provide some benefits, such as creating jobs and increasing revenue for Alaskan Native groups in the North Slope region, its consequences far outweigh them. The project will not only produce a concerning amount of carbon emissions, but the infrastructure it requires has the potential to damage habitats for native species and change the migration patterns of animals in the region. 

Native Alaskan groups may economically benefit from the group; however, the environmental consequences will hit some groups harder than others. The Native village of Nuiqsut, for example, will bear the heaviest burden of these consequences, as they are located close to where the project is supposed to take place. The village will have to deal with the brunt of the environmental and health impacts, whereas villages farther away will face consequences of the project on a much smaller scale. It is not fair to subject any of these groups to these consequences; most especially the Nuiqsut village, which did not consent to them.   

The Nuiqsut village is not the only place that will be affected by the consequences of the Willow Project though. Pollution knows no borders, and if the estimated 260 million metric tons of carbon pollution produced by the oil from the project is released into the air, people all over the world will suffer. 

The project’s approval has faced a lot of backlash – over one million letters sent to the White House protesting it as well as a petition from that received over three million signatures. Clearly, a large number of people are against this project, indicating that they in no way consent to the consequences they may face because of it. It is in no way fair to force them to suffer from these impacts.

Although the Biden Administration also recently announced new protections for the US Artic Ocean and federal lands in Alaska, these protections may not offset the impacts of the Willow Project. These protections include total protection of the US Artic Ocean from companies seeking to lease oil and gas as well as rules to protect over 13 million acres of land in Alaska, including important habitats for native and migratory species. 

If the Biden Administration is looking to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 50% over the next seven years, approving the Willow Project is a few steps in the wrong direction. Simply offsetting the consequences with other protections does nothing to decrease the United States’ carbon footprint. If the Biden Administration is as serious as it claims to be about stopping climate change, the Willow Project cannot be approved.  

Even if many of us may not be subject to them for quite a few years, the consequences of the Willow Project pose a threat to all. It is our responsibility, both to the environment and those who will face the immediate impacts of the project (such as the Nuiqsut village) to speak out against the project and show that we care about our future here on this planet.

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