Peter Matthiessen explores the controversy surrounding the Artic National Wildlife Refuge in a beautifully written essay published in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. One of America's foremost nature writers, Matthiessen weaves memories of his own visits to ANWR through the essay and examines the motives behind the continuous push to exploit it.
Matthiessen was born in 1927 in New York City. The Snow Leopard, one of his most remarkable books, recounts a trek with biologist George Schaller into the remote Himalayas in search of the snow leopard. It is also a deeply personal account of Matthiessen's own spiritual journey to Buddhism, following the death of his wife and a battle against drug dependence.
Here's the opening paragraph of the ANWR essay:
Wild northern Alaska is one of the last places on earth where a human being can kneel down and drink from a wild stream without being measurably more poisoned or polluted than before; its heart and essence is the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in the remote northeast corner of the state, the earth's last sanctuary of the great Ice Age fauna that includes all three North American bears, gray wolves and wolverines, musk ox, moose, and, in the summer, the Porcupine River herd of caribou, 120,000 strong. Everywhere fly sandhill cranes and seabirds, myriad waterfowl and shorebirds, eagles, hawks, owls, shrikes and larks and longspurs, as well as a sprinkling of far-flung birds that migrate to the Arctic slope to breed and nest from every continent on earth. Yet we Americans, its caretakers, are still debating whether or not to destroy this precious place by turning it over to the oil industry for development.