By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Alaska
As I write this, I'm huddled in a tent on the tundra of the wildest part of America, about 175 miles above the Arctic Circle in the last great wilderness virtually untouched by humans other than Eskimos and Indians.
This fate of this wildlife refuge is to be decided by politicians in Washington in perhaps the most contentious debate about the environment today. Supporters of oil drilling make much of the fact that almost none of those who insist on protecting this refuge have ever seen it or ever will, and they sometimes argue that it is a frozen wasteland — even though their own visits consist mostly of staring down through the windows of a plane.
So I decided to visit for a week — boots on the ground, or snow — and backpack and raft through this pristine land now up for grabs. Assuming that my satellite-telephone batteries hold out, I'll write about what the land is really like — and, on the way, make up my own mind about drilling.(more)