Several readers of last monthís column were struck by the excessively cynical tone of my admonition that the last person out of Alaska should please turn out the lights. In retrospect, perhaps I was too rash because, in truth, Alaska will continue to be a fertile ground for all manner of relevant and critical activities for as far into the distant future as we are able to see.
For instance, although there may continue to be a diminishing military establishment here, even in the total absence of saber-rattling along the Pacific Rim, it seems likely that there will remain a requirement for a skeleton corps of people willing to jump out of perfectly good airborne airplanes. After all, even a voluntary armed force needs to have a place to threaten to send people. Fairbanks may not be Adak, but it is close enough for government work.
Likewise, the Fish and Feathers folks and the NOAA wind detectors will need to be able to congregate somewhere when discussing how exhaust fumes in Atlanta are causing an increasing number of walruses to sunbathe on our coastal beaches.
In addition, where would EPA be without remote Alaska villages to use for base-line evaluations of the disposition of honey-pot content?
There has been such a demand for the opportunity for people to risk their lives on the flanks of Mt. McKinley that the National Park Service has actually had to start charging more money to help pay for the cost of plucking the ill-prepared off, and for other purposes, the mountain.
The recreational opportunities afforded by Alaska will still retain their appeal. Undoubtedly, folks will still want to see how many mosquitoes they can kill with a single blow while bicycling across the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve Ė at least until mosquitoes are declared endangered. Head net suppliers are probably safe for the time being.
People will always want to pay the big bucks for a few days to kill fish at Bob Gillamís lodge on Lake Clark, and that has to account for something.
Certainly recreational placer mining will continue to be available, as long as you donít use anything mechanical and are careful to return any gold found to its original location.
Alaska was once, in recent memory, in a fairly strong position politically to weather the economic storms that wreaked disaster on our fellow Americans, but we have now elected to create our own havoc. First the Alaskan Hulk was sent packing, and then his understudy was shown the door. The seniority and influence Uncle Ted and Miss Lisa represented was immeasurable. It was the Lipitor for our financial arteries. Upon Sen. Murkowskiís announcement that she would conduct a write-in campaign against the Grand Old Tea Party candidate, she was immediately stripped of her leadership positions. Those positions included being the ranking member on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which was huge, especially if the Democrats are ever routed. For those of us who think that development of energy and natural resources is important for Alaska, the loss of that specific leadership position is nationally monumental. One can only hope the successor can find Alaska on a map. (Look to the lower left, next to Hawaii.)
It was wrong for me to be so quick to forecast a bleak future. I have long wondered whether the best hope for Alaska was secession, not because I donít like being an American ŗ la Joe Vogler, but because if we were to secede, obviously, it would be followed by a great civil war (but this time we would be the North). If we won, we would be entitled to foreign aid. If we lost, we would be entitled to reconstruction. In either case, we could expect better treatment from the landlord on the Potomac.
The optimistic truth is that Alaska is a land of plenty. Our oil, our gas, our coal, our metallic minerals, not to mention our fish and our trees are among the most prodigious in the world. Everyone wants what we have to share and those wants are not going to disappear soon or perhaps ever.
So we will be the supply source, one way or another, for generations yet unborn. The sky really isnít falling. I was just kidding.