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Why Did Obama Choose Oil Money Over Struggling Polar Bears Facing Extinction?

Jacqueline Marcus

At some point, there has to be a line drawn between corporate profits and the sanctity of life.  True, these are extremely hard times for the majority of jobless Americans, and the harder it gets for them financially speaking, the easier it becomes for the oil and coal executives to get their way, which doesn’t take much when they’ve successfully corrupted legislators to such a far-reaching extent that it’s easy to prove there is no distinction between the U.S. government and the oil and coal industries.  They put down the big piles of cash—and they get what they want.  

Operating in a corrupt political system explains why this president cares about one thing and one thing only: getting re-elected and making sure that he gets plenty of corporate money to compete against the Republican candidate who will also receive millions of dollars from the same industrial polluters.  As journalist Travis Smiley and Princeton University Professor Cornel West explained to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! : "Obama is associated much more with the oligarchs than with poor people."  If starving children in America don’t sway the heart, will dying polar bears? 

This is a president who threw his own people under the bus in order to please the billionaire oligarchs.  For example, the Obama White House refused to be associated with Wisconsin’s union protesters as reported in the New York Times “when West Wing officials discovered that the Democratic National Committee had mobilized Mr. Obama’s national network to support the protests, they angrily reined in the staff at the party headquarters.” 

What kind of message does that send to Democratic voters?  Perhaps if Obama had proudly stood behind the WI Democratic protesters, as I believe President Clinton would have done, the turn out would have been a big win for the Democrats or more than two Republican recalls.

How, then, can we expect Obama to care about dying polar bears when he angrily turned against the Democratic National Committee for, God forbid!, making him appear as though he cared about our principles such as protecting unions and bargaining rights? 

There is talk about searching for another candidate to challenge Obama because, as the repeated joke has it, with Democrats like Obama, who needs Republicans? 

President Obama, in short, doesn’t feel much compassion for starving children, much less starving polar bears, given his recent ruthless order to dismiss the government’s chief Arctic scientist who warned about the starving polar bears due to melting ice. This piece, Arctic scientist who exposed climate threat to polar bears is suspended,appeared in the Guardian.

It was seen as one of the most distressing effects of climate change ever recorded: polar bears dying of exhaustion after being stranded between melting patches of Arctic sea ice.

But now the government scientist who first warned of the threat to polar bears in a warming Arctic has been suspended and his work put under official investigation for possible scientific misconduct.

Charles Monnett, a wildlife biologist, oversaw much of the scientific work for the government agency that has been examining drilling in the Arctic. He managed about $50m (£30.5m) in research projects.

Some question why Monnett, employed by the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, has been suspended at this moment. The Obama administration has been accused of hounding the scientist so it can open up the fragile region to drilling by Shell and other big oil companies.

They put down the big piles of cash—and they get what they want.   "Interior Secretary Ken Salazar came to Anchorage on Monday and said the Obama administration supports more oil drilling in Alaska, potentially including offshore Arctic development. Salazar joined Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed for a meeting with Alaska business people and said the president's feeling toward Arctic offshore drilling is 'Let's take a look at what's up there and see what it is we can develop.” Sean Cockerham, Anchorage Daily News.

Clearly, former Vice-President Al Gore’s Rolling Stone criticism of this White House’s poor global warming record, Climate of Denial, having a popular circulation of 14 thousand Facebook shares and 2,065 Tweets and still growing, had absolutely no impact on Obama.  On the contrary, he seems almost cheerful about opening up our fragile wildlife lands and oceans to the polluting industries. “Let's take a look at what's up there and see what it is we can develop.” 

President Obama rightly argued that the oil executives should pay their fair share of taxes during the debt ceiling debate, unfortunately, that was standard Obama-theatrics.  If, however, Obama felt he had to make that decision, as unpopular as it may be, the time to make oil execs accountable is before approving more dirty oil drilling that contributes to global warming. No more tax subsidies either. Otherwise, drilling and mining are off limits. That’s how a president is supposed to negotiate.  But as usual, Obama asked for nothing in return and then wrongly calls such one-sided corporate deals a “compromise” which is Obama’s typical excuse for giving away the store. 

Although Obama has provided some tax incentives for solar and wind, he never asked leaders of the solar and wind companies to produce energy, which, if given half a chance, could provide a substantial amount of energy without harming our environment and far more cheaply than oil and coal development.  Why can’t he at least try to see what kind of power they can provide before resorting to more oil drilling when CBS reported that there are up to 18 major pipeline ruptures and crude oil spills a day in the U.S., most go unreported.  In the words of Sen. John Kerry, “We can’t drill our way of this problem.”  The oil industry desperately wants to believe that 1950 is forever when oil reached its peak in the mid 1970s.  Oil is running out, and the sooner we turn to renewable energy, the better off we’ll be ecologically and economically.  So why won’t Obama give solar, wind and renewable energy a chance? The answer to that question has everything to do with campaign money.  The dirty energy execs put down the big piles of cash—and they get what they want.  

I realize that this may be futile, but I thought—maybe I can appeal to Obama’s daughters so that they can try to persuade their father to think about the starving polar bears, those magnificent, white furry animals in the Arctic that are on the verge of extinction, have a God-given right to life as much as we do.  So I bought a DVD of the Arctic Tale with Queen Fatifah and I’m sending it to the White House for the Obama daughters with a note asking them to please watch it and that they can help save the polar bears by persuading their father to not allow more oil drilling in that extremely fragile area where polar bears are suffering enough as it is.

Wish me luck…I hope it gets to them.  Synopsis of Arctic Tale:

Following the epic struggle of a tenacious young walrus and a polar bear, this saga of survival amid the rapidly changing Arctic wilderness comes from the creators of March of the Penguins and An Inconvenient Truth. Queen Latifah narrates the life journey of Seela the walrus and Nanu the polar bear, from birth through maturity and parenthood, where the cycle begins anew and they pass what they've learned to the next generation.

Thanks to President Obama’s recent decision to hand over the Artic to the oil industry so they can increase their profits of a $trillion dollars a year combined, there may not be a “next generation” of polar bears. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Jacqueline Marcus

Jacqueline Marcus is the author of Close to the Shore (Michigan State University Press). She taught philosophy at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, and is the editor of

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