Why not big projects?
An address to the Forty-seventh annual
United Nations Department of Public Information /
Non-Governmental Organization Conference
United Nations Headquarters
New York. New York
September 22, 1994
Governor of Alaska
Chairman of The Northern Forum
here for reference to Global Energy Grid
Today, I call on the United Nations to turn its
attention to the Far North to use our energy and our
resources to harness big projects in the fight against
I represent the voice of the Arctic a voice rarely
heard in the halls of the United Nations.
Cold and remote, the Arctic is as mysterious as the
moon. It is beautiful. It is romantic. To some, it
is frightening. Its reality is lost beneath layers
of myth like centuries of snow covering the pure blue
ice of a glacier a thousand feet below.
Today, we will penetrate those layers, shatter those
myths, and examine the vision the Arctic peoples have
for the future their future, and yours.
I represent the leaders of 21 Arctic and northern
regions, the members of The Northern Forum, a unique
non-governmental organization (NGO) made up of 21
governors. We come from many lands, including Lapland
and the Yukon, northern China, Japan and Norway, from
the Komi Republic in western Russia and the Chukotka
Autonomous Okrug Alaska's next door neighbor.
we will examine the vision the Arctic peoples
have for the futuretheir future, and yours.
Unlike in the Antarctic, people live in the Far North.
People of rich culture and history.
Many in the temperate and tropical zones look up.
They are intrigued. They want to visit us, but they
soon return home to warmth and comfort. But we who
live in the Arctic don't look up.
We don't look down. We look around. To us
the Arctic is home. The Arctic is heritage. The Arctic
is our here-and-now and our hereafter. We love it
summer and winter.
On May 11 of this year, 88 Arctic adventurers lifted
off in a Boeing 727-100 jet from Anchorage, Alaska,
headed for Kotzebue on the Bering Sea, and then on
around the world. They visited all 8 Arctic nations
touching down in 14 Arctic cities. They returned to
Alaska seven days later exhilarated and inspired.
This first-ever Circumpolar Expedition was a symbol,
a symbol designed by The Northern Forum, a symbol
that the Arctic, long-divided by artificial boundaries
and ideologies, is beginning to unite.
We have much in common, notably our climate, our
natural resource wealth, and our constant conflict
with our mother countries. Washington, D.C. doesn't
understand the Arctic, nor does Moscow, Oslo, or Ottawa.
Arctic, long-divided by artificial boundaries
and ideologies, is beginning to unite.
But, The Northern Forum is bringing a change. I submit
that our region-to-region approach, among areas with
like problems, is the wave of the future.
Ten of our 21 governor members are from Russian regions.
Together we are working on trade, and sustainable
development. We are fighting against nuclear waste
dumping in the Arctic, and we are concerned about
meaningful involvement by indigenous people in northern
Our greatest challenge is to cope with decisions
made in the South that don't work in the North, For
instance, in the great Prudhoe Bay oil fields on the
North Slope of Alaska, we re-wrote and re-designed
the construction techniques and government regulations
used in warm climates. We had to! In Arctic construction,
heat is the enemy, cold is the friend. Heavy rigs
move across the frozen, ice- covered tundra without
leaving a trace. They operate from a frozen drilling
pad that later melts and disappears.
The basic lesson is that the Arctic is not as difficult
as it is different. For instance, we have no
population problem. The Arctic does not compete with
the world for people. But the Arctic is rich with
the resources people need.
We who live at the top of the world, live above an
ocean of oil and gas, a continent of coal, mountain
ranges of minerals, and a world of natural beauty.
If, as this conference suggests, "development is another
name for peace," then the Arctic will be one of the
world's great peacemakers.
Arctic does not compete with the world for people.
But the Arctic is rich with the resources people
There are vast, untouched lands above the Arctic Circle.
And government, not the private sector, controls nearly
all of this remote real estate. This is certainly true
in Alaska. Private individuals own less than one percent
of our land. That's one reason the Arctic, in the past,
has been exploited. When no one owns it, no one cares.
The obligation rests with government both to care
for the land and to make it productive. Therefore
government must not be the enemy. Government must
be the friend. Government must regulate, to
ensure that our lands and people are not exploited.
But government must also advocate. Without
government saying "yes.' there will be no sustainable
I call Alaska an "Owner State." What we own in common
must be managed in a new way not in the interest of
a few, but for the needs of all. But this is not only
true in Alaska.
As we look at the globe, seven-eighths of which is
covered with water, we can see that it is truly a
collective world. No one will ever homestead the oceans.
No one country owns the air or the water that runs
from the world's rivers into a common sea. The United
Nations calls it the "global commons." And it extends
beyond this earth. No one nation can lay claim to
the moon, the planets, arid the stars. So we must
learn to work together.
we look at the globe, we can see that it is truly
a collective world.
Some of the former communist nations and the peoples
of the Third World are magnetized now by a market economy.
They see its power to perform economic miracles. "Enlightened
self-interest" is the slogan.
As an Alaskan businessman, I am a product of that
system. But just as Communism failed we of the industrialized
world must admit that unbridled Capitalism is not
the total answer either. Those in business must realize
that the bottom line is important, but it is not the
only line. Without concern for other people,
for their needs and wants, activities for strictly
private gain become destructive not only to others
but eventually to oneself.
As the Inuit, Sami, Lapp, and other indigenous peoples
of the North learned long ago, in a cold, harsh environment,
you have to care about others. You share to survive.
You waste nothing. You care for the total. Every hunter's
prize is a gift, not just to that hunter, but to his
family and village. He shares his whale, walrus or
caribou with others especially the very old and the
So Capitalism, too, must be enlightened. It sounds
like a contradiction in terms, but the future demands
"unselfish Capitalism." All of us North, South, East,
and west must be ready for change.
We, the Arctic people, do not fear change. Because
nature does not fear change. In the Far North, we
observe that nothing changes the environment as much
as nature. Signs of the vitality of the planet signs
of its youth are seen in our volcanoes our earthquakes
and our rivers, most of which don't run blue. They
run rich with the colors of a changing earth.
just as Communism failed we of the industrialized
world must admit that unbridled Capitalism is
not the total answer either.
Not unlike the other regions at this podium this morning
there is conflict in the Arctic. But our conflict is
not violent not yet. There is conflict between those
from Outside who fear for the Arctic and those Inside
who have faith in it.
The Arctic is a battlefield in a world war of priorities
over the preservation or use of our resources. This
war is waged on every land, and it is a bitter fight.
As the population in the temperate and tropical regions
grows, the need for resources will grow. Most people
don't want development in their own backyard; so those
resources will come mostly from the Arctic, the oceans,
And yet, every year there seems to be a new "Arctic
preservation strategy." And in most cases, these plans
threaten both the Arctic's potential and its people.
These policies are not born of malice, but of ignorance.
And ignorance is a killer in the Arctic. One misstep,
one wrong turn, and we are faced with the brutal truth
that Mother Nature in the North has no compassion.
is conflict between those from Outside who fear
for the Arctic and those Inside who have faith
The Eskimo peoples learned this lesson well, as hive
the more recent pioneers. But today, do-gooders from
afar want to put our lifestyles and livelihoods at risk.
A recent initiative from 'Washington. D.C. and Ottawa
would place 20 million acres of the most resource
rich part of Alaska and the Yukon in World Heritage
status. How much is 20 million acres? It's Four times
the size of Israel. It's larger than Ireland. It's
bigger than the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut,
New Jersey, and Maryland combined.
This idea, to place the entire Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge (which we call ANWR) in park status, would
lock up the most promising onshore oil province in
North America. That's unacceptable, and it's so unnecessary.
By law, the heart of ANWR a nine million-acre preserve
that includes the Brooks Range is a wilderness where
no development will ever take place.
For 17 years, Alaskans have produced close to two
million barrels of oil a day from our North Slope,
shipping it down the trans-Alaska pipeline. This energy
flow makes up 25 percent of the domestic oil production
of the United States of America. And without the oil
that can be produced safely from a small comer of
the Arctic Refuge, that pipeline may soon run dry.
place the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in World
Heritage status would lock up the most promising
onshore oil province in North America. That's
unacceptable. And so unnecessary.
The Eskimo people who live on the coastal plain have
watched our oil development there for 20 years. At first
suspicious, they are now strong advocates. It has resulted
in modern medical facilities, schools, housing, and
jobs that allow them to combine modern benefits with
a subsistence hunting and fishing lifestyle. And the
wildlife has not been harmed. In fact, caribou herds
have increased as much as sixfold, thanks to enlightened
Those who live in the North are dumbfounded that
neither Washington, D.C., nor Ottawa bothered to consult
the people of Alaska or their governor before advancing
this lock-up concept.
At the same time, our national leaders encouraged
the start-up of the $16 billion Sakhalin II mega-project
in the Russian Far East. While the ANWR oil field
would be safely located on land, using proven technology,
the Sakhalin project will place oil rigs in the middle
of a fabulous fishery that produces 1.1 million tons
of fish each year.
are the most precious things on earth. If we abandon
that basic truth, we will tolerate untold human
There is a double standard here a standard that suggests
it is okay to risk fouling the seas of nations in desperate
economic straits, so long as you don't drill in the
lands of those of Western European descent. That's not
Today I call on like-minded peoples here at the United
Nations to raise their voices with us this type of
high-handed land grab is a new form of colonialism,
born of an anti-people philosophy. We mustn't let
this ideology poison world policy.
People are the most precious things on earth. If
we abandon that basic truth, we will tolerate untold
On the eve of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,
I shared the podium with my host, Secretary General
Maurice Strong, at the Global Forum. And I warned
against those who see the world in only one dimension.
I called on the world community to adopt a universal
environmental equation, an equation that addresses
the total environment. That equation, simply
stated, is this: The total environment includes people,
people's needs, and nature.
What does it cost to protect the total environment?
The cost is to care. Because when we decide to care,
we will pay the true cost.
Let me give you an example from our part of the world.
Today a pound of fresh pollock from the North Pacific
may wholesale for one dollar. But there's great waste
in how that fish is harvested. Every year hundreds
of millions of pounds of other types of fish caught
in that same net the so-called by-catch are dumped
With the hunger in the world today, this is a criminal
act! This waste must be brought to an end! When it
is, that fish may cost a little more perhaps a dollar
five a pound. It's time we paid that extra five cents.
total environment includes people, people's needs,
What I am saying is that we must all look to a new definition
of success that includes caring for the earth and all
of its living things and natural wonders. The throw-away
society didn't work. The give-away society doesn't work.
And, let's face it, the lock-away society won't work
Yes, the extreme preservationists the anti-growth
movement must redirect its energies. Like the church
500 years ago when it repressed change of any kind,
those who oppose growth oppose our salvation. There
is no hope if there is no growth. And there is no
wealth without production without people doing productive
work. Someone has to dig a hole, cut a tree, catch
a fish just for the basics of life.
throw-away society didn't work. The give-away
society doesn't work. And, let's face it, the
lock-away society won't work either.
No matter what you call your system when the economy
fails, the government fails. And if the world economy
fails, the United Nations will fail.
Today I bring to you a proposal for the next century.
I commend it to all nations and NGOs for their best
thinking and creativity.
Philosophers have talked for centuries about building
a new world. Today we are meeting to discuss building
peace. My conclusion is that to build a new world
to build peace we must literally build it.
Historically, the world's most cynical leaders have
used war or preparing for war as an economic strategy.
War puts people to work and gives them a purpose.
War concentrates the thoughts of a nation, making
it think and act as one.
But why war? Why not big projects? After all,
war is just a big project.
My idea is not new. It's as old as the pyramids and
the aqueducts of Rome.
The late inventor Buckminster
Fuller conceived of a global energy network, linking
the industrial and developing worlds with an energy
grid. Existing electrical generators unused during
the night in the North, can be tapped at the speed
of light to bring poverty-fighting power to the South.
Two billion people live without electricity today.
Show me any area in the world where there is a lack
of energy, and I'll show you basic poverty. There
is a direct tie-in between energy and poverty, energy
and war, energy and peace.
While Fuller's global concept may seem like science
fiction, electrical interconnections between regions
and even continents can and must be tackled now. This
can be a vast and visionary undertaking worthy of
Some people may ask, "Where will the money come from?"
I say money is not the problem. There's always enough
money to go to war. It all depends on our priorities.
In some quarters, big projects today are not "politically
correct." Many sincere people believe "small is beautiful"
and "wilderness is the world." But we in the Far North
understand the power of a big project to change society.
Russia did it with the 6,500 mile trans-Siberia Railway.
Alaska did it when we built the largest project in
the history of free enterprise, the trans-Alaska oil
pipeline. It mobilized our people, gave them a challenge,
and a goal.
war? Why not big projects? After all, war is just
a big project.
I have talked with my fellow governors in The Northern
Forum about longline energy grids. And we have discussed
sharing our vast fresh water resources in the North
with the arid nations of the South. We are planing to
use our vast natural gas resources to help clean up
the smog-choked cities of the industrial world. And
we have dreamed about a rail tunnel beneath the Bering
Imagine, a rail trip from New York through Alaska,
connecting with the trans-Siberia railway, and on
to Paris, circling more than halfway around the world,
and carrying with it a wealth of ideas, of commerce,
and of wonder.
in the Far North understand the power of a big
project to change society.
The regions of The Northern Forum are already working
to make Russia's Northern Sea Route a common carrier
for the world's goods. For example, resources from the
Pacific Northwest of the United States of America transported
on ice-armored freighters over the top of the world
can arrive in Rotterdam 8 days faster than if they sail
through the Panama Canal. Japanese cargo can get there
a remarkable 18 days faster.
The solution to our social problems is not Money.
It is productive work.
And the best jobs are those with a sense of mission.
The builders of the great monuments of the world demonstrated
that truth centuries ago the craftsmen who constructed
the cathedrals of Europe; the Africans who designed
and built the pyramids; the Mayans who created ancient
temples in America; the Khmer who built Angkor Wat.
For some, putting these stones in place was a religious
experience of its own.
Today, where do the tourists of the world want to
go? They visit those shrines. They want to see the
Statue of Liberty and Washington, D.C., with its marvelous
monuments and architecture, The Eiffel Tower. The
Taj Mahal. St. Petersburg. The Sistine Chapel. The
And it's not just monuments that attract. Great Engineering
achievements do too the Great Wall of China, the Suez
Canal, Machu Picchu in Peru, and the Sydney Opera
And even in Alaska many of our visitors want to see
and touch the 789-mile trans-Alaska pipeline.
Mankind's handiwork fascinates and inspires every
solution to our social problems IS not money.
It is productive work. And the best jobs are those
with a sense of mission.
So as we approach the end of this century, let's agree
on some big projects and build them. Let's link up the
world's excess electrical generating capacity with those
most in need. Let's take water from North to South.
Let's construct the Bering tunnel and join the world's
continents. Let's harvest the wealth of northern resources
especially our storehouse of energy.
If we tackle these projects we will learn that the
days of pioneering are not over. Alaska has been called
the last frontier but in reality there will be frontiers
as long as there are humans. Every child born is given
new frontiers to explore. God's way to test us is
to give us Our own frontiers and the greatest frontier
is within 0urselves.
link up the world's electrical generating capacity.
Let's take water from North to South. Let's construct
the Bering Tunnel. Let's harvest the wealth of
Today I call on the United Nations to turn its attention
to the Far North. The next decade, the next millennium,
might be dedicated to the Arctic the Decade of the Arctic.
In my part of the world, the peoples of the Arctic
can communicate now without being blocked by curtains
of iron or ice. Our "new frontier" is to work together
to improve the living standards of our peoples; to
fight both to preserve our values of old and welcome
the new; to build a way of life that is truly sustainable
Then the Arctic, no longer ignored, can participate
in a world-wide effort to build peace for all people.