Adapted from former US President Jimmy Carter, Foreword to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A Photographic Journey by Subhankar Banerjee
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge stands alone as America's last truly great wilderness. This magnificent area is as vast as it is wild, from the windswept coastal plain where polar bears and caribou give birth, to the towering Brooks Range where Dall sheep cling to cliffs and wolves howl in the midnight sun.
More than a decade ago, [my wife] Rosalynn and I had the fortunate opportunity to camp and hike in these regions of the Arctic Refuge. During bright July days, we walked along ancient caribou trails and studied the brilliant mosaic of wildflowers, mosses, and lichens that hugged the tundra. There was a timeless quality about this great land. As the never-setting sun circled above the horizon, we watched muskox, those shaggy survivors of the Ice Age, lumber along braided rivers that meander toward the Beaufort Sea.
One of the most unforgettable and humbling experiences of our lives occurred on the coastal plain. We had hoped to see caribou during our trip, but to our amazement, we witnessed the migration of tens of thousands of caribou with their newborn calves. In a matter of a few minutes, the sweep of tundra before us became flooded with life, with the sounds of grunting animals and clicking hooves filling the air. The dramatic procession of the Porcupine caribou herd was a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spectacle. We understand firsthand why some have described this special birthplace as "America's Serengeti."
Standing on the coastal plain, I was saddened to think of the tragedy that might occur if this great wilderness was consumed by a web of roads and pipelines, drilling rigs and industrial facilities. Such proposed developments would forever destroy the wilderness character of America's only Arctic Refuge and disturb countless numbers of animals that depend on this northernmost terrestrial ecosystem.
The extraordinary wilderness and wildlife values of the Arctic Refuge have long been recognized by both Republican and Democratic presidents. In 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the original 8.9 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Range to preserve its unique wildlife, wilderness, and recreational values. Twenty years later, I signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, monumental legislation that safeguarded more than 100 million acres of national parks, refuges, and forests in Alaska. This law specifically created the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, doubled the size of the former range, and restricted development in areas that are clearly incompatible with oil exploration.
Since I left office, there have been repeated proposals to open the Arctic Refuge coastal plain to oil drilling. Those attempts have failed because of tremendous opposition by the American people, including the Gwich'in Athabascan Indians of Alaska and Canada, indigenous people whose culture has depended on the Porcupine caribou herd for thousands of years. Having visited many aboriginal peoples around the world, I can empathize with the Gwich'ins' struggle to safeguard one of their precious human rights.
We must look beyond the alleged benefits of a short-term economic gain and focus on what is really at stake. At best, the Arctic Refuge might provide 1 to 2 percent of the oil our country consumes each day. We can easily conserve more than that amount by driving more fuel-efficient vehicles. Instead of tearing open the heart of our greatest refuge, we should use our resources more wisely.
There are few places on earth as wild and free as the Arctic Refuge. It is a symbol of our national heritage, a remnant of frontier America that our first settlers once called wilderness. Little of that precious wilderness remains.
It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extraordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations.
Throughout his essay, Jimmy Carter builds his argument through a personal anecdote that is meant to touch the reader and humanise him, through the evocative language that he uses in that anecdote to paint a picture of the pristine landscape that he wants to protect, and by finally appealing to the more rational and fact-driven reader by justifying his position with statistics.
After introducing the topic at hand, Carter kicks off immediately with the story of his first visit to the Arctic Refuge, along with his wife. He mentions that his visit there was "one of the most unforgettable and humbling experiences of our lives." By starting off with a personal story, instead of being a dry technical piece on the various merits and disadvantages of developing the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for industry, it becomes a more personal story that the reader can relate to more. This makes the reader more susceptible to the argument that Carter puts forwards, that a place of natural beauty is worth protecting. Protecting what is meaningful to you and to others is a natural human desire, and by showing us just how much the Arctic Refuge means to him through the personal story, Carter demonstrates the extent of his passion for the place, which is infectious and also makes the reader want to protect it, just like he does.
But perhaps the strongest point of the passage is how Carter uses vivid descriptive language when he tells his personal story to capture moments of beauty within the Arctic Refuge. Carter describes the landscape first in his anecdote; he mentions the "brilliant mosaic of wildflowers, mosses, and lichens that hugged the tundra." This description of nature in this way really emphasizes the beauty of the place. The use of the word mosaic brings to mind art, and that association makes the reader feel as though the Arctic Refuge a precious, invaluable piece, as well as strengthening the mental image of the place in question for the reader, an exercise which will make the reader more sympathetic to protecting it. This mental image is then strengthened by Carter talking of the "muskox, those shaggy survivors of the Ice Age." The image is populated by animals now, not just rocks and plants. This picturesque snapshot of nature that Carter describes is perfect for his argument, that the Arctic Refuge possesses overwhelming natural beauty. Beyond adding to the snapshot though, this quote shows Carter's remarkable use of other techniques, such as personification. The phrase "shaggy survivor" is a remarkably catchy one due to its alliteration, and by calling the muskox a survivor Carter gives is a more human quality which makes the reader be more inclined to like it and want to protect it, which leads through a natural line of reasoning to wanting to protect its habitat and home, which is precisely Carter's main argument. Carter's personal story isn't effective just because its personal, but also because of how it builds a mental image of the Arctic Refuge through evocative language, which is just what is required for the audience want to protect this slice of natural beauty.
Carter doesn't just rely on emotional arguments to build his case for the preservation of the Arctic Refuge. He makes sure to back up his proposal with a consideration of the arguments against it and facts that support his side. One of the main arguments for the development of the Arctic Refuge is that it contains a large amount of natural resources which would be beneficial to the economy. Carter undermines this by first exposing the true consequences: "destroy[ing] the wilderness character of America's only Arctic Refuge and disturb[ing] countless numbers of animals that depend on this northernmost terrestrial ecosystem." After exposing what could happen, he then goes on to undermine the potential gain that of his opponents claim would result, making the reader distrust his opponents and have faith only in his argument. He uses the fact that extracting oil from this piece of wilderness would only provide a small amount of the oil that America uses every day, only "1 to 2 percent", a minuscule amount compared to how much would be saved through other measures such as more efficient engines in cars. By stating, undermining, and dismantling the arguments of opponents, Carter leaves his as the only real option left, naturally turning the reader on to his side.
Overall, the main thrust of Carter's argument is an emotional appeal of a personal story of the beauty and enjoyment that the Arctic Refuge provides so many, himself included. This only works well because of the fantastic description that he provides of the landscape, and natural unblemished beauty, strengthening his case for preservation. This main emotional thrust is supported by a reasoned explanation of why the more pragmatic and economic arguments against the preservation of the Arctic Refuge aren't as strong as they initially seem, lending credence to his argument by backing it up with facts. The strong emotional impact along with the solid support creates a very convincing argument for preservation that would turn almost any reader to Carter's point of view through its sheer emotional impact, achieving his goal.
If you've gotten to here than thanks for reading my essay, all help is much appreciated.
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