Readers respond to the October issue

Alaska's Oil Debate
The different perspectives of the Gwich'in and Inupiat peoples on the issue of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are understandable ("ANWR: The Great Divide"). It's hard to fault either the Inupiat, who have enjoyed the fruits of the Prudhoe Bay oil extraction, or the Gwich'in, who continue their way of life with its dependence on the caribou. But oil was first exported from the Prudhoe Bay fields in 1977, and the end of the supply already seems to be in sight. Will the development and exploitation of the ANWR fields yield just another 30 years? What then? Will there be another source of revenue to support the Inupiat? Will the herds of caribou, which have sustained the Gwich'in for many generations, have been decimated? Where is the national leadership that is looking beyond oil to renewable forms of energy? Both the Gwich'in and Inupiat peoples are likely to be losers in this shortsighted approach to energy.
Richard L. Ridenhour
McKinleyville, California

I found the behavior of the Gwich'in, who oppose opening up ANWR for oil drilling, contradictory. On the one hand, they express a desire to maintain their traditional lifestyle as subsistence caribou hunters. Drilling for oil, the Gwich'in claim, would alter migratory patterns and drive the Porcupine River caribou herd away. On the other hand, they ride to the hunt not on dog sleds, but on earsplitting snowmobiles, which use oil and gasoline. So much for, as author Scott Wallace puts it, "letting the silence and the soothing, muffled roar of the distant river wash over us."
Barry Stinson
Duluth, Georgia

The Gwich'in, who seem to shun the oil economy, are apparently quite comfortable fueling their high-tech caribou slaughter with oil—as long as it's not extracted from their large backyard. Their approach comes across as pure as the driven snowmobile.
Patrick Hardesty
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

I am troubled by the arrogant thinking that would take a chance on wrecking an ecology essential to a people's way of life on the basis that oil is "believed to be" there. I am not an environmentalist in the common sense of the word, but drilling for oil just because some people think it exists seems a little silly to me. It is also disturbing that, for drilling's sake, the Inupiat are willing to sacrifice another people's way of life but not their own—hunting bowhead whales.
Tim Bowman
Sebewaing, Michigan

Fewer Bucks, More Fawns
Deer hunting as it has been usually practiced has served to increase rather than decrease the white-tailed deer population ("Oh Deer!") at the expense of farmers, motorists, gardens and woodlands. This is because most hunters prefer to shoot bucks, especially those with big antlers. Removing large numbers of males from the population reduces competition for food, enabling more does to survive the winter and give birth in the spring, replenishing and even increasing the population. Wildlife managers refer to this as maintaining the "maximum sustained yield." Unless management policies are changed, the white-tailed deer population will remain high.
Bina Robinson
Swain, New York

Whose Democracy?
I find it ironic that Andrew Jackson is referred to as a "chieftain to the tribe" ("People's Choice"), since he signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, evicting the Five Civilized Tribes of Native Americans from their homes, livelihoods and lands in the southeastern United States and forcing them to move to Oklahoma, then Indian Territory. The Cherokee Trail of Tears is an example of the act's brutal consequences. This, too, is a part of Jackson's democracy.
James Faulkner
Lansing, Michigan

Iceberg Chasers
The photograph headlined "They Shoot Icebergs, Don't They?" shows a man firing a gun at an iceberg off Newfoundland this past summer to gather ice for use by the Iceberg Vodka Corporation. Tour boat operators and tourists such as myself were up in arms over the distillery company's actions because of the recent dearth of icebergs in the area. As one retired fishing boat captain in Twillingate told me, "The ocean is changing, and not for the better."
Charles H. Parfitt
Fairfax, Virginia

Notwithstanding our punning headline, Iceberg Vodka says it doesn't harvest ice from intact icebergs but only from the broken-off pieces called bergy bits—like the one in our photograph. —Ed.

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