By Audrey Peterman

When President Obama traveled to Alaska and renamed Mount Denali last week, I had visions of the mountain as I watched it through my window at Camp Denali for four solid days in 2012. The ice-clad behemoth towers more than 2,000 stories into the air, is so huge that it makes its own weather, and made me literally feel as if I was looking into the face of God. I hoped the President got that view and that it had the same effect on him.

Simultaneously, I felt hurt and confused that a few weeks earlier he’d signed the permit allowing Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean. His decisions until now have been overwhelmingly pro-environment. Why would he expose our Arctic to drilling and its inherent huge negative consequences? Even if we avoid potentially catastrophic accidents, the very act of oil extraction in that area heats up the atmosphere at the point where glaciers are swiftly melting.

I went looking for answers and what I found gave me the chills, including:

“There’s more to Obama’s Arctic trip than just hypocrisy:  Critics  of the president’s Alaska visit should examine the National Petroleum Council’s role in pushing drilling.

“… Although such criticism has a point, it misses the force behind the decision to approve Arctic drilling to begin with: the National Petroleum Council (NPC) Obama’s administration oversees…the NPC is an advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy consisting mostly of executives and CEOs of some of the biggest oil and gas companies on the planet. A case in point: its president is Charles D. Davidson, CEO of Noble Energy, and its vice president is the aforementioned Tillerson.  As the ‘advisory’ badge makes clear, NPC advises and influences U.S. and more broadly, global energy policy.”

What?! I didn’t know that the people crafting our energy policy are those vested in exploitation of our resources that could simultaneously destabilize our planet!

I also learned that a massive geopolitical power play is heating up the Arctic, particularly between Russia and the US.  As melting glaciers expose more land, nations are competing for territory and resources rather than seeing it as a warning.

My consternation at how little I know about issues so vitally important to our future increased when I received a frantic note from a friend in Washington State titled: “Urgent alert! Olympic National Park – a military training range?”

It read: “I recently returned from an incredible backpacking trip into one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, 7-Lakes Basin high in the Olympic Mountains, in Olympic National Park. The silence, the stillness and the spectacular beauty was exalting. My heart was overflowing with gratitude that these gorgeous wilderness areas have been protected forever, for us, the American people.

“Olympic National Park is so breathtaking in its beauty, and so rich in its wildlife, it has been declared a ‘World Heritage Site’ by the United Nations. Its deep emerald valleys, thick with ancient rainforests, are recognized as being the ‘quietest place in the contiguous United States.’

“This is all about to change. Drastically.”

A little research found, “The US Navy plans to permanently use and periodically close large swathes of the Olympic National Forest, along with airspace over it and the Olympic National Park as well as the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, for electromagnetic warfare testing and training. They are also ramping up their use of explosives and sonar and training activities in the waters surrounding the Olympic Peninsula. Their stated goal is to turn the western portion of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and surrounding waters into an Electromagnetic Warfare Range. . .” (Daily Kos)

What?! It was my first time learning about this serious threat to this pristine area which is supposedly “protected.” Thankfully, the USDA Forest Service that decides whether the Navy gets the permit is taking comments from the public until Nov. 28. Please research the issue and e-mail your interest to the authorities listed.

What constitutes “news” today when these substantive issues facing our nation don’t make the headlines?