There's been a tradition amongst my friends of saying "Thank You's" before dinner, usually a couple words or things fresh on our mind from the day. More often than not, we're huddled around a campfire or cozied up around a big table enjoying family-style dinner. Each time we're going around the circle outside, I find myself being thankful for the Wild and all that it brings us.
"Wild." It's a fascinating word. It's the only bit of this Earth that hasn't been commercialized, industrialized, or inhabited by thousands of people. It's the land as it was always meant to be. You and I are just guests in the wild - it's the home of the trees and animals and insects and rivers that flow through. It's a place not to take for granted. The Wild is where we find peace and quiet, where we can run around like children again. We can walk and explore and stop at the simplest leaf but marvel in it's perfection. We hide from storms and celebrate fresh water and sun. It's a way of escaping the hectic lives we all live in exchange for something simple. The Wild is something worth fighting for.
Established on December 6th, 1960, the Arctic Refuge Wilderness covers 19.3 million acres of Alaskan Tundra. It's home to caribou, polar bears, snowy owls, arctic foxes, black and brown bears, muskoxen, and plenty of other species. It's home to the Gwich'in people, and has been for hundreds of generations. It's an Arctic and subarctic ecosystem, but it is very much full of life and stories worth protecting.
As big oil companies race to continue developing fossil fuels, off-shore drilling and climate changes threaten places like the Arctic Refuge. They threaten the lives of the Gwich'in, the traditions and history they have attached to this land, the Caribou and animals who roam freely, and all those who are thankful for this land. The people of this area have been fighting oil companies for over 30 years now, but it's our time to stand and fight alongside them.
Back in June, I had the opportunity of experiencing Alaskan wilderness for a quick 4 days and I can whole-heartedly say there's nothing like it. Two days spent in Denali National Park - no trail, no designated camp spots, no people, and no shortage of animal tracks. Using ridge lines and game trails as our source of directions, we explored the area with no intentions but to experience it. We hiked until midnight, slept on top of a knoll overlooking the valley, and felt dwarfed by the foothills behind us. This was a place of true wilderness.
I'm working with Care2, Patagonia, and Alaska Wilderness League to bring you this blog post about an important topic. I want to continue spreading the message and support the Gwich'in people in dedicating their coastline as recognized wilderness. Please take a few minutes to watch the short film put together by Patagonia that gives a glimpse of what this battle is all about. By taking steps like this, voicing our opinions, and signing the petition, we can come together and show our government that places like this matter.