Environment over economy: It’s time to prioritize our planet

Emma Newton, Assistant Editor

On March 13, the Biden Administration approved the Willow Project, which would build three new oil plants in Alaska, endangering the environment and the locals. Climate activists worked hard to start petitions and inform others in order to stop the project from passing. 

The government weighed the choice between making the decision from an economic standpoint or an ethical one. However, numerous citizens thought that prioritizing the economy over saving our planet was a selfish decision. They agreed that by choosing the country’s financial well-being over and over again, our planet will face the consequences. Alaskan Earthjustice President Abigail Dillen thinks that the Biden Administration’s decision goes against what it stands for. 

“We are too late in the climate crisis to approve massive oil and gas projects that directly undermine the new clean economy that the Biden Administration committed to advancing,” Dillen said. “We know President Biden understands the existential threat of climate, but he is approving a project that derails his own climate goals.”

The U.S. government worked for eight years to get this project approved in order to help stabilize the economy. Despite economic benefits, the amount of carbon pollution that would be released would hurt the already suffering Alaskan environment. Climate change activists claim that this could be the “final blow” that could drive some endangered species, such as the humpback whale and the leatherback turtle, to extinction.

By the administration’s estimates, the oil plants will release 9.2 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon pollution a year. This would severely impact the atmosphere of our planet by creating a warmer climate. It would cause Alaska to become much hotter, melting the ice caps and causing sea levels to rise. 

Knowing the future consequences, climate activists began to spread the word about the project and it quickly became a trending topic on all social media platforms. The TikTok community became very engaged in the subject, publicizing hashtags such as “#STOPWILLOW,” which received over 50 million views. With the project’s public interest increasing, activists started a petition on change.org titled “Stop the Willow Project.” As of April 13, 2023, the petition has over 4.5 million signatures. People across America have also sent over one million letters to the White House expressing their disapproval of the project.

For too long, we have prioritized our country’s finances over the environment. There are ways to help our planet and boost the economy that don’t involve making our planet suffer, like using solar and electric energy. This can stop the rapid increase of carbon into our atmosphere while saving money that we would otherwise spend on energy. 

Recycling and composting can be great ways to limit the waste sent to landfills and conserve more of our limited natural resources. Additionally,  it can help the economy by lessening the need for gas for garbage trucks and reducing the amount of money that would be spent on natural resources. 

When the Willow Project was eventually approved on March 13, the Biden Administration altered the bill from building three oil plants to two. President Biden also claimed that the government will fund more nature conservation organizations throughout the entire state of Alaska. 

Americans need to fight for what they want in our country and for our future. Although the Willow Project was approved, the willingness of citizens to fight for their beliefs shows the value that we hold in the defense of the environment, even if decisions don’t go our way. Many of us are very lucky to live in a country that welcomes input from the public, but the government doesn’t always listen to what the citizens want, shown with the approval of the Willow Project. In spite of these setbacks, we are better able to learn how to inspire others to fight for what they believe in and get our government to hear our voices more in the future.

Data found as of April 2023.