Letter to the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles Advocating Clemency to Alexander Williams
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
February 6, 2002,
Rabbi Warren Stone statement
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Adas Israel Congregation
September 13, 2001
"The Ancient Psalmist said: "The Earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." I am here as a Rabbi, a religious leader, representing people of faith traditions across America, who strongly believe that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary, a Godly place, and that we, each of us, is a caretaker of God's creation. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was designated by our nation as a refuge because there was life in need of protection, a safe harbor for the caribou herds, arctic foxes, polar bears, wolverines, 70 regularly nesting birds and for the native Gwich'in people, a tribe that has dwelled for centuries on this land.
As a Rabbi, I have spoken with a tribal chief of the Gwich'in people who told me that their families are all subsistence hunters who depend on the Caribou herd and others animals in the Arctic refuge for their survival as a people. Drilling in the Arctic refuge would threaten the Caribou's migration patterns and the tribe's very existence. We the religious voice of America stand in support of the Gwichin tribe and strongly believe that not one single well, should be drilled in this sacred refuge. This cannot be a place of compromise.
Alaskahas many other areas of petroleum development, including the National Petroleum Reserve bordering the Arctic Refuge. For those in the administration who believe they can drill in just 2000 acres without damaging the fragile ecosystem, a National Wildlife Federation study has shown that this is erroneous for the "2000" proposed acres are not contiguous and their exploitation would inevitably create a vast spider of wells, pipelines processing plants and other oil related facilities. The Prudhoe Bay oil fields which began as a small project have swallowed up large portions of Alaska's northern slope. Our religious voice says no, leave the National Refuge, as a refuge.
We are being blinded by misguided short term interests and skillful and well funded lobbies of the oil industry. For a mere %1 of our country's oil needs we would threaten and most likely destroy forever our country's last great wildlife refuge, a fragile ecosystem created over millions of years. An ancient Jewish folklore on the book of Ecclessiastes commenting on the story of the garden of eden, says " if we destroy eden, there is no one after us to repair it."
The Arctic Wildlife Refuge will not solve our need for energy independence. So, what do we do? Our country needs to boldly seek energy alternatives. We need an energy policy for our nation that reduces the demand for fossil fuels and raises CAFE standards. For example , increasing fuel efficiency standards to 45 miles per gallon by 2010 would save more oil than 10 times the likely yield from this coastal plain. We must continue to seek new forms of energy, fuel cells, solar and wind which are now becoming affordable with-- wind farms, fuel cell development , solar, hybrid engines and many other exciting new technologies are waiting for more development. When I went to Kyoto as a religious leader for the UN conference on Climate Change I saw Japan and other nations actively seeking energy alternatives while we have been slow to seize these opportunities.
Let us, America, be on the international forefront of pursuing energy alternatives, boldly seeking and funding initiatives.
As a religious leader I ask, who is calling the shots on these sensitive environmental and energy decisions which affect all of America? When the vast American public strongly concurs against drilling in Arctic Wildlife Refuge, why is the Administration pursuing this issue with such vigor? We call for the Senate to vote against this destruction.
My teacher Elie Wiesel once said : "speak truth to power." Do you wonder if Enron's vast contribution to the current administration's campaign had any impact on our country's energy policy---or private meetings on energy policy held and kept in secret from the public -you bet it did, isn't America an open government, by the people for the people?
Religious groups from across the nation are speaking out on this and other environmental issues of moral and religious concern. My own Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life of which I represent and many interfaith groups including the Religious Campaign on Forest Conservation and the National Religious Partnership on the Environment, the U.S Catholic Conference, the National Council of Churches, the Evangelical Environmental network, religious leaders from across our country who share their concern for the Arctic wildlife refuge and protecting our national lands and forests from commercial development, climate change, protecting threatened species and issues of moral concern. Religious voices need to be heeded by those who decisions impact the life of our planet.
The religious voice on environmental issues has become a groundswell from the largest constituency in America, of every Senator and Legislator in America, What is that groundswell--the 100,000's of people who care about their faith and believe that protecting our environment is a deeply religious and moral issue, and cannot be left only to industry or environmentalists. Our voices are growing like the prophets of old, shouting loud and bold for justice and Caring for God's Creation.
Conserving the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is our faith based initiative. Listen to our voices on issues of protecting God's earth and all God's creation. We believe it is nothing less than sinful to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This land is a precious wilderness sanctuary, and must remain intact, a refuge. People of faith across America concur, this place is a sanctuary, God's refuge. We stand in awe before God's creation, in reverence for its beauty and its fragility, and we say---leave the Arctic National Refuge, leave it and its abundant life---alone!
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .