ANWR, conservation
Fresh tracks and a winter den left behind by a polar bear and her cub in the refuge's 1002 region, March 2002 (Subhankar Banerjee)

Outside and the ANWR Debate

A note from Outside Editor Hal Espen:

ANWR, conservation

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Let me briefly provide some context for our February 2004 feature story by David Masiel, “Crude Reality,” in which the writer argues that some carefully enacted and monitored oil exploration and drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the correct political and environmental compromise to resolve the long, bitter controversy over the future of ANWR.

ANWR, conservation

ANWR, conservation Fresh tracks and a winter den left behind by a polar bear and her cub in the refuge’s 1002 region, March 2002

This is not the first contribution Outside has made to the ANWR debate, nor will it be the last. In the November 2000 issue, senior editor Kevin Fedarko reported on his trip to ANWR with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and on the NRDC’s fight to save ANWR, in a story titled “The Slippery North Slope.” Peter Matthiessen’s eloquent, first-hand portrait of ANWR and his passionate argument against drilling ran in February 2003 (“Footprints in the Last Wild Place”), together with the first publication of Subhankar Banerjee’s remarkable photographs of ANWR. Banerjee’s photographs later became the center of controversy when the Smithsonian Institute altered its plans to exhibit them, provoking charges of political censorship.

David Masiel’s story represents the other side of this crucial national debate. We asked Masiel, the author of the acclaimed novel 2182 Kilohertz and a former oil worker in Alaska, to investigate the arguments of proponents of drilling in ANWR. He embarked on this assignment with an open mind, and arrived at his own conclusions after he did extensive reporting both in Alaska and Washington, D.C. Given how polarized and even mutually uncomprehending the two sides of this debate have become, we realized that many readers will strongly disagree both with Masiel’s recommendations in “Crude Reality” and with Outside‘s decision to publish the story. But it is our view that the final outcome of the dispute should not be achieved through poisonous invective, but through a healthy and open discussion of the facts on both sides—the same principle that governs responsible, vigorous journalism.

Outside is a non-partisan, independent voice on environmental issues, but we are also a principled defender of wild places and strong conservation ethics. We make our contribution to environmental progress and justice through solid reporting and enthusiastic efforts to inspire respect and love for the natural landscape and the whole web of life on Earth. “Crude Reality” does not represent any official Outside “policy” on ANWR—in fact, many of us disagree with David Masiel’s conclusions—but we believe that his story makes an honorable contribution to a fateful and highly significant national question.

Join the ANWR debate in our online forum

Read “The Slippery North Slope,” Kevin Fedarko’s November 2000 Dispatch about Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign to keep oil companies out of ANWR.

Read Peter Mathiessen’s February 2003 feature opposing drilling in ANWR (“Footprints in the Last Wild Place”)

See an online gallery of Subhankar Banerjee’s spectacular ANWR photos

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021 Lead Photo: Subhankar Banerjee

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