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Sea Change: President Obama Acts to Protect Arctic and Atlantic

Sea Change: President Obama Acts to Protect Arctic and Atlantic

Arctic and polar bear

On Tuesday, President Obama announced a permanent ban on offshore oil and gas drilling along large swaths of the Arctic and the Atlantic seaboard, protecting 115 million acres of an especially unique and vulnerable ecosystem.

Tuesday’s action was made in conjunction with Canada; Prime Minister Trudeau has vowed take similar action to protect the Arctic waters that Canada controls. The two countries released a joint statement, confirming their March announcement to work together to protect the Arctic, among other items related to climate and energy policy. Having made significant commitments in the Paris Agreement and to the Green Climate Fund, the United States and Canada are demonstrating the strong international leadership – especially noteworthy from two of the world’s largest polluters – crucial to curbing climate change.

Protecting the Arctic, a special ecosystem, is important for two reasons. First, there are Native American nations, like the Gwich’in people, who inhabit the Arctic, as they have for thousands of years. There are 8,000 Gwich’in who live in Alaska and Canada and rely on the land for their livelihood. Offshore drilling in this area would compromise not only their ability to sustain themselves, but their ability to freely practice and express their culture. Second, the Arctic is a particularly vulnerable region, warming at least twice as fast as other parts of the planet. Finally, the harms of offshore drilling are far-reaching and very dangerous. Offshore drilling exacerbates climate change by emitting greenhouse gases, causes harm to coastal communities, and moves us further away from implementing clean energy solutions. 

In taking this step to limit offshore drilling, President Obama acted with authority granted from a provision in the 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. While other presidents have used this law to temporarily protect areas, President Obama is the first to implement a permanent protection.

Even in uncertainty, we must live by our Jewish values and ensure that our earth is protected. God implores us with a sense of urgency, “Do not destroy my world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to make it right again” (Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13). We must take consistent action to protect our planet and to curb climate change. President Obama’s action is an important one, and one that reflects the urgency of environmental protection. Take action on this key issue by trying the RAC’s Hanukkah Greening Challenge

Lizzie Stein is a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, she is a member of Temple Kol Ami and graduated from Occidental College. 

Lizzie Stein

Published: 12/22/2016