Obama To Seek Protection Of Over 12 Million Acres Of Alaskan Wilderness

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The ANWR. Credit Here.

Natives call the region that we call the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins.” This land is home to the most diverse array of wildlife in the entire Arctic, and this includes caribou, polar bears, grey wolves, and more.

This region is fragile, especially in a world where the climate is dangerously changing. In tandem with reducing our pollution output to slow the rate of climate change, President Obama is ready to take action to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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The Coastal Plains. Credit Here.

Officials announced Sunday that the Obama Administration will ask Congress to protect over 12 million acres of Alaskan lands from a range of human activity, including road construction and drilling.

President Obama, in a video sent out by the White House, said that he wants to “make sure that this amazing wonder is preserved for future generations.”

Alaskan lawmakers, along with some Republicans in Congress, were quick to criticize this request. Alaskan Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski slammed it as federal outreach, saying that “It’s clear this administration does not care about us, and sees us as nothing but a territory.”

The center of this dispute is the 1.5 million acres of oil-rich coastal plain in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This has long been a contention point between the oil and gas industry and conservationists.

Conservationists are praising the request that the 12 million acres be deemed ‘wilderness’. Rhea Suh, president of the National Resources Defense Council, said that it is “the best news for the refuge since President Eisenhower established it in 1960 as the Arctic National Wildlife Range.”

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Polar Bear Pawprint at ANWR. Credit Here.

The President said that while America is the biggest producer of oil and gas and that we are importing less foreign oil now than anytime in the last 30 years, some regions must stay off-limits. Accidents and spills still occur, and we cannot risk a Valdez-type (or worse) spill to damage the fragile and pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that “Designating vast areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness reflects the significance this landscape holds for America and its wildlife.” Jewell also said that “like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of our nation’s crown jewels and we have an obligation to preserve this spectacular place for generations to come.”

So, this, and really the whole struggle about climate change, comes down to this:

Will we protect the Earth that we all share with moderate solutions that benefit both the private and public sectors, or will we let overabundances of money cloud our judgement?

It’s up to us.

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Poverty Must Be Our Focus To Fulfill The Dream

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Dr. King Receiving His Nobel Prize. Credit Here.

Oh, how men of compassionate, tolerant hearts willing to do all necessary for the betterment of all people can connect across decades, even centuries.

The dream is far from realized. Half of all public schoolchildren are now in poverty, as of 2015. People of all races cannot live life without finding institutional discrimination, which matters much more than verbal racism. Over 40 million of our fellow Americans are suffering in poverty; out of this, those suffering worst are blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. And the poverty rate is only getting higher.

I am ready to lead the next great change, this time with a focus on poverty. We must look at our people less as black, Hispanic, Native American, American of Arab Descent, etc., and more as fellow Americans. We must reduce poverty and improve education to save the dream.

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Credit Here.

We as America are a beautiful tapestry, woven together by strands representing every race. The strands should not hate each other because they are a different color, they should all work together. When strands are eliminated through the loss of opportunity, the American Dream, the whole tapestry falls apart.

I am ready to help all who suffer in the deepest depths of the human condition, that of poverty. And I will pay whatever price, bear any burden, for this to happen.

Thank you, Dr. King, for starting the great change. We must carry the torch now, and focus on our issues, like poverty, which is worse now than even in the 1960s. We must also prevent what happened in the last 50 years, regression, from happening again.

We must never let our hearts turn dark, for no tolerant democracy can run on hatred.

Unity In France And Among All Free People For Tolerance And Democracy

The Place la République January 11th During Unity March. Photo by Paolo Verzone.

France has suffered unimaginable grief over the last week. Starting with losing 12 citizens in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, to the shooting death of a female police officer, and finally the dual hostage standoffs that ended with the deaths of 3 of the perpetrators (the female terrorist’s location is thought to be Iraq or Syria) and 4 Jewish hostages at the market, Paris is unified.

A confirmed 1.5 million people filled the streets of Paris, including in the Place de la République, showing that Paris, France, and free people everywhere will not cower to intolerance. I spoke to a Frenchwoman named Julie (who wished for her full name to remain anonymous), and she said that the, “French people are united and standing up against any form of terrorism.”

The Charlie Hebdo attack, Julie told me, first put France into a state of “shock, then fear,” but now, “are united.”

The French perspective on the magazine is interesting. Julie said that, “Charlie Hebdo was not a ‘popular’ newspaper and by popular I mean not many people bought it (I think they were having money problems) but it was very controversial. Either you liked it or hated it.”

Charlie Hebdo was a target by the terrorists because of its cartoons. Julie did note, very importantly, that she “thinks that even though some people didn’t agree with their editorial line, it is a symbol of freedom of speech. So in my opinion, Charlie Hebdo didn’t have a huge impact but its attack did.”

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My hand drawn tribute to those who died in the Charlie Hebdo, and the Jewish Market attack.

Many of our leaders say that security measures against these types of attacks need to be expanded, and I agree in some ways with that, but the issue is much bigger than that.

First, the brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre were susceptible to radical ideology because of disenfranchisement in France. The shrinking opportunity for people to get out of poverty is causing this kind of violence and hate to become attractive. In France, in Europe. All over the world, including America. Sometimes, attacks such as these are done to ‘leave a mark’ because other, real, ways of leaving a legacy are not possible to people stuck in poverty with no way out.

The other thing we can do is to improve education and incorporating tolerance and an understanding of other cultures into that curriculum. I am deeply opposed to standardized tests because they force schools to focus on simply facts without any cultural understanding, language, and lessons in tolerance. One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela, which fits perfectly in this discussion:

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Teaching children to have tolerance and compassion for all people through the education system, paired with reducing poverty and restoring opportunity, are moderate approaches we can take to prevent hate from causing violence.

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Credit to Paolo Verzone.

From Caesar, to the Hundred Years’ War, to the Nazi Occupation, and now to this week, Paris has and always will endure through great challenges and threats to her. Paris and New York are the great free cities of the world, and because of that are shining beacons of light in the darkness of hate and intolerance.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Nous Sommes Francais.

Vivé la France.

May the light of freedom always triumph over the darkness of intolerance.