Case Response: ANWR

The case of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was a particularly contested issue with two fundamentally differing sides: those who advocated for the importance of resource extraction (particularly oil), and those who valued preservation over economic gain. In examining the power, attitude, proximity and interest (PAPI model) of the stakeholders, this case exemplifies the concept of the intrinsic value of wilderness and the environmentalists’ willingness to fight for its preservation, which is deeply contrasted with the economics-focused mindset. The ANWR debate shows the interference of ideological differences (economic gain vs. intrinsic value of nature) and the use of predictive scientific statistics to persuade.

The president’s Interior Department, including Roger C. B. Morton, appointed policy entrepreneur for the trans-Alaskan pipeline, was a primary stakeholder due to its executive role in deciding the fate of the Alaskan land. Morton and the Department naturally had a high amount of power as a government organization. Their attitude, however, shifted over time, particularly as new presidents were elected. At the fragile beginning of the issue, Morton’s attitude was ambivalent, described in the book as “dubious” (Layzer 2016, 172). It seemed that he could be swayed either way, which further motivated both sides to get the attention of the government. While the role of the Interior Department is to use their best judgment, their attitude can also shift based on public opinion as they are looking to represent American attitudes. In regards to proximity, the interior department was quite far, all the way across the country, from Alaska, but their position in Washington gave them close proximity to the power and debate surrounding the issue. The interest of the Interior Department was high. The Department, a group who specialized in this type of policy-making, was interested in the issue primarily due to the politics of their job that required them to please the people.

The second stakeholder in the case of ANWR was the Alaska Public Interest Coalition, made up of environmental activists with a strong desire to advocate for preservation of the land (Layzer 2016, 172). The power of this group was relatively weak in comparison to that of the government, however, their strength was in their fairly large size and their ability to mobilize a grassroots-type movement and stand for the environmental voice of American citizens (Layzer 2016, 172). The attitude of this group was their strong belief in the essential preservation of the Alaskan lands and that this valuing of nature should trump economic interest. In terms of proximity, it is likely that many group members invested their time due to a personal love for Alaska, thus many were close in proximity, perhaps as Alaska residents or visitors. Their interest was strong and stemmed from an ideological belief in the importance of nature, thus their motivation was purely environmental.

Lastly, the contrasting sides of the perspectives of the drilling advocates and the environmental biologist in this case are interesting to compare, as both stakeholders tried to be persuasive in raising concern for the future if their desired action was not taken. Drilling advocates cited information to show the economic benefits of obtaining natural resources from ANWR, such as the study by the Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates that found that use of the oil field would create 735,000 jobs by 2005 (Layzer 2016, 179). The environmentalist side highlighted information from biologists discussing the 2,000 polar bears that would be affected (Layzer 2016, 178). Both sides utilized the power of predictive science to shape and frame American views. Americans valued science as a form of truth but also valued economics due to their worries about their financial future, thus both had the potential to be convincing. The collision of perspectives in the case of ANWR and their use of science and economics to predict the future shows the power of predictive statistics when selected to influence public opinion.

 

Bibliography

Layzer, Judith A. The Environmental Case. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2016.

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