06/22/2012 11:04 am ET Updated Aug 22, 2012

Real Threat to Alaska Natives Isn't Oil Development -- It's a World Without Oil

When it comes to oil in the north, the time has arrived for environmentalists and Alaska natives themselves to face the fact the gasoline that fuels the internal combustion engine long ago corrupted traditional cultural practices.

That the descendants of the 49th state's aboriginal occupants have managed to hang onto and celebrate the vestiges of these traditions is a testament to Native leaders, but the sort of claim that follows here is pure nonsense: "On Alaska's Arctic coast, the Inupiat people practice the same cultural traditions that they have for thousands of years -- traditions that fuel their bodies, their spirits and their future."

Those are the words of Betsy Beardsley, director of the Environmental Justice Program at the Alaska Wilderness League, writing for Forbes magazine in an article entitled "The Case Against Drilling in Alaska's Arctic Waters."

There is a case to be made against drilling in Alaska's waters. This is not it. The "cultural traditions" of the Arctic coast today are as vested in modern petrochemicals as the traditions of any other American.

Oil, simply put, powers the Inupiat. It's the lifeblood of vital food-gathering equipment: outboard motors, snowmachines and four-wheelers. Oil powers up the rotors on the North Slope Borough search-and-rescue helicopters that have saved many a lost hunter. Oil fuels the jets that deliver North Slope and Northwest residents to Alaska's capital in Juneau or the nation's capital in Washington, D.C., to lobby for coastal protection, marine mammal management, and environmental safeguards on drilling in the Arctic where, if the world was perfect, there would indeed be no drilling.

Perhaps if the world were perfect, there would be no more drilling for oil anywhere. ...

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