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Societal Implications


When evaluating the impact a large decision such as whether or not to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will have on a region, the sociological implications of the action must be taken into consideration. Since the current situation is already known and would not change drastically if drilling did not occur, research focused on what would happen if drilling was allowed. Though the results of drilling may be more pronounced and long-term for the environment, any detrimental or beneficial effects that such operations have on the people of Alaska will be immediately vocalized and brought to the attention of the global community.

Though people throughout the world will be affected by drilling, the people of Alaska are nearest to the heart of the issue and will therefore bear the major effects of oil drilling. Most of the citizens of this state can be grouped into four general categories, based on their beliefs, culture, or current occupation. Though the groups may vary in size and political clout, all have a stake in the future of Alaska. Therefore, the opinions of all four groups must be weighed before a decision can be reached on this issue.

The people who have lived in Alaska the longest are the native tribes. In the ANWR area of Alaska, there are two main tribes - the Gwich'in and Inupiat. The larger Gwich'in tribe subsists mainly on land animals, especially the caribou, and would be adversely impacted by the effects

oil drilling would have on these species. In contrast, the Inupiat support drilling because the money it would bring in to the area would allow them to modernize many aspects of their life. Since their diet is primarily one of sea animals, their food source would not be seriously affected by onshore drilling.

Research done on the impact of oil drilling on the rest of Alaska's citizens suggests that such activities may be beneficial in the short-term but detrimental in the long run. Certainly, jobs would be created, but these would be temporary and would expire as quickly as the oil disappeared. Congressional power of the state would rise with increasing oil production, but most estimates conclude that no oil would appear on the market for at least ten years. The eventual influx of new wealth appeals to many of Alaska's citizens, and that is why the majority of the people of Alaska support drilling.

Those who play roles in the corporations and government of Alaska will also be impacted by oil drilling in the 1002 region. There are two different types of corporations, and each has a different view on drilling. The corporations owned by the natives must keep an eye out for the health of the people and the local environment, so they support looking for other places to drill. On the other hand, outside corporations, including the large oil companies, are seeking to drill in ANWR to increase their profits while creating short-term jobs for the local communities.

Finally, Alaskan environmental groups, who of course oppose all drilling, will be affected by drilling. If such activities are allowed, most groups have vowed to issue time and money consuming litigation which will slow the actual start of drilling. This litigation will either increase or decrease the power of these green groups, depending on how it is depicted by the media. Either way, these groups will try their hardest to oust any drilling from the region if it becomes a reality.

In evaluating the total impact of this decision on the people, it was found that there would be several negatives and positives. These effects will be factored into the cost-benefit analysis to determine the overall impact of drilling on Alaska. While no amount of research can correctly ascertain the true impact of future drilling, one can be assured that the sociological implications will be great.

Alaskan Environmentalists
Alaskan Citizens
Native Alaskans
Alaskan Corporations


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