The Willow Project

If This Project is Approved, Climate Change will be Close to Irreversible


Andreas Weith

Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Willow Project is an Alaskan Oil project which plans to drill an estimated maximum of 180,000 barrels of oil a day for 30 years, resulting in approximately 600 million barrels of oil drilled. It has gotten much attention on social media, with environmentalists doing what they can to spread awareness about preventing the project from being approved. This project is supported by many economic benefits, but is it worth going forward with the plan if it also comes with many environmental drawbacks?

The Benefits and The “Benefits”

ConocoPhillips, the company that developed the plan, states that their project is expected to create over 2,500 construction jobs, and around 300 permanent jobs. For a state with one of the largest unemployment percentage rates in the US, this would be a great thing for the local population.

Some other “benefits” ConocoPhillips mentions in their fact sheet include “$3.9B in federal royalty income tax and gravel sales, $1.2B North Slope Borough (NSB) revenue from property tax, $1.2B State of Alaska revenue from production, property, and income taxes.” It’s all money–money for the government.

Oh, and of course, can’t forget the one thing this project is all for: oil, one of the largest marine pollution sources and according to ClientEarth, contributing at least “a third of the world’s total carbon emissions.”

The Drawbacks

While this whole project is to drill for oil, the Willow Project also pumps out a large amount of gas into the atmosphere as well. According to Evergreen Action, the project would pump out around 279 to 287 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses, which is similar to the amount of carbon emissions generated annually from ⅓ of the total amount of coal plants in the US. Evergreen Action even describes this as, “pouring fuel onto the fire of the climate crisis.” Which is exactly what it is. If the Willow Project is approved of, climate change will be incredibly close to irreversible.

This project also directly harms people as well. 36 miles away from the site is the Native American community of Nuiqsut. Already surrounded by oil and gas activity, they have suffered from illnesses, believed to be an effect of the carbon emitted by these activities–also owned by ConocoPhillips. This is environmentally injust, as people who do not have such great control, people who are hidden away from the rest of the country, are being stacked under money instead of being stacked on top for their health and traditional concerns.

The people of Nuiqsut also warn that their ecosystems could fail as the greenhouse gasses are not only affecting them, but also their food. Their population lives off of the more natural ways of living by hunting for food, such as fish, whales, and caribou, but if these oil projects keep coming in, food scarcity rates could go up.

As companies are making their way into the arctic for resources, more companies want to do the same. If one company gets to drill for oil–and money–then other companies are going to want a part of that money oil too. Sooner or later, the Arctic would be covered in gray pipes, tunnels, wells, everything that takes away its beauty. The Arctic is one of the last places on Earth that has barely been touched by man-made machines. One day, humans may never get to see the beauty of the Arctic for themself if this continues.

How to Help

There are multiple ways to help, but the smallest action a person can do is to spread awareness. It may not seem like much, but if more people know about the situation and start to speak out for it as well, then more people will listen. Many environmentalists are taking action on social media, creating edits of the wilderness, capturing the attention of people scrolling through the internet with memes, and much more. It’s because of these people that even more people are taking action. In less than a day, more than 400,000 people signed the petition because of raised awareness for this topic.

People who see these social media posts about the Willow Project are told to go to Protect The Arctic and sign their letter. This is a letter/petition they have created to capture the attention of the government. It’s a letter to be heard. All you need is an email, a name, and a region. That’s it. Each day people sign this, even more people sign the next day. This process doesn’t even take 5 minutes, it’s so quick and easy!

Lastly, if you are brave enough to face someone from the government, you could even leave a message for the White House switchboard. Anyone from anywhere in the world can dial in their number (also on the Protect The Arctic website) and leave a message. Protect The Arctic even made it easier by leaving a script! Though, be prepared to wait, it does take some time for your call to be picked up by one of their volunteers.

If you want to take action, take action as soon as possible, we only have until March 6th to spread awareness, get as many signatures as possible, and to reach out to the government. If we want to preserve life, we need to take action NOW before it’s too late.