Washington, D.C. – While a traumatized nation is focused on cleaning up the environmental horrors resulting from Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast area, concerned individuals, under the sponsoring umbrella of the "Arctic Refuge Action Coalition," and from other environmental groups, too, from across the country, rallied on the West side of the nation’s Capitol, on Sept. 20, 2005. They were there specifically to raise the consciousness of the U.S. Congress to the real dangers facing parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, located in northeast Alaska, from a man-made predator – Big Oil!
Some legislative background is in order. President George W. Bush, in Aug., 2005, signed into law a so-called “Energy Bill." It is, in reality, a massive and obscene giveaway to Big Oil! It contains $4 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the oil industry, which is presently enjoying record profits. It will also "loosen environmental protections." One of that law’s key beneficiaries, ExxonMobil, has made $15 billion in profits during the first six months of this year alone and had reaped a staggering $24 billion in profits in 2004.  The law did not include any provision for Arctic Refuge drilling. However, Congressional-watchers are concerned that lackeys in the Congress for Big Oil-the Mother of all Special Interests and also the #1 culprit suspected of getting the U.S. into the Iraqi War-will use the budget reconciliation legislation process to “ramrod the controversial proposal through Congress.”  This is a legislative device comparable to the one that the sneaky Bill of Rights’ shredders in the Congress used in Nov., 2001, to pass, in the middle of the night, the dreaded – USA Patriot Act! 
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., an environmental attorney and nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy, was the primary speaker at the protest action, which was attended by a crowd estimated at over 1,000. He also spoke at a press conference before the event. Kennedy said in answer to a question about the present administration that, "You can’t talk honestly about the environment in any context today without speaking critically of this president. This is the worst environmental president in American history. There is no doubt. There is no competitor." Kennedy labeled the energy bill "a boondoggle" for Big Oil. He also referred to the members of Congress as being "indentured servants" of the energy industries and accused the Bush-Cheney Gang of not having "a national energy policy." Kennedy said the only values that they care about is "corporate profit taking." He concluded by saying, "We need to fight to take our democracy back." 
A concise description of the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the specific area under immediate risk from exploitation by Big Oil, reads like this: "The 19.6 million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a spectacular wilderness of boreal forests, rugged mountains, sweeping tundra vistas, wild rivers, coastal lagoons, and barrier islands. Located in the northeastern corner of Alaska, the Arctic Refuge features a complete range of arctic and sub-arctic ecosystems and an extraordinary assemblage of wildlife. The Arctic Refuge is a place of unparalleled beauty, so wild and untrammeled that one may walk for days without seeing signs of another human being. There is no greater place in America to experience wild nature, hike, fish, hunt, raft, camp, or simply lose oneself to the natural rhythms of the land. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has called the refuge’s 1.5 million-acre Coastal Plain ‘the center for wildlife activity’ for the entire refuge. But the oil industry and its allies in the White House and Congress are lobbying hard to open this part of the refuge to oil drilling." 
Some battles to save the environment hit even closer to home. The Chesapeake Bay, a priceless estuary, which borders the states of Maryland and Virginia, and with over 200 miles of shoreline, is "dying" from pollutants, which have created huge "dead zones" in it. The Bay’s watershed spans an incredible 64,000 sq. miles. The Baltimore Sun reported, on Sept. 11, 2005, that "eighty percent of the fish get squeezed into 20 percent of the water" of the bay, in order "for them to breathe!"  Does it make any sense for our country to be playing the dubious, and costly role, of Global Cop, while unique natural assets, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the Chesapeake Bay, are under a sentence of death?
When I was growing up in Baltimore, in the late 40s, near historic Fort McHenry, I learned how to swim in its harbor. Most of the kids doing so, like myself, ended up with problems with their ears from the toxic chemicals in the water. However, after the federal government passed the "Clean Water Act," in 1972, many waterways of our nation, including Baltimore’s contaminated harbor, began a long road back to renewal. Unfortunately, well intentioned laws aren’t enough to get the job done. Eternal vigilance, (read perpetual activism), is the price for a clean and healthy environment. Why? Because, the enemies of our natural world never sleep! Few of my generation will ever forget the massive oil spill from the Exxon Valdez, on March 23, 1989, into the waters of Alaska’s Prince William Sound. Could that kind of catastrophic event ever happen again? Tragically, the answer is, yes! 
On the propaganda front, Right Wing loonies, like Rush "Pills" Limbaugh, regularly demean environmentalist activists. His arguments are based on the most outrageous kind of lies. Environmentalists are maliciously labeled by these windbags as "liberal conspirators," "tree-huggers," and "greenies, who are responsible for the fuel cost crisis."  Limbaugh, like others of his ilk, is just an insufferable pimp for the special interests, such as Big Oil, and the Gas, Mining and the Timber industries, too. He won’t dare mention to his ditto-headed followers, that he lives in a multimillion dollar oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, drives a luxurious automobile and smokes expensive imported cigars. And, to show you just how vicious the planet-haters are, there is evidence that operatives within the Bush-Cheney Gang are looking to blame environmentalists for the flooding of New Orleans! 
As I was standing with my wife, Ann, at the rally and looking at the Capitol itself, I thought about her family’s ancestral connections to one of its brilliant architects – Benjamin H. Latrobe – and how, mercifully, the Capitol building has been preserved for future generations to enjoy.  The same thing, sadly, can’t be said for the environment, the natural world, like the Chesapeake Bay, which I have enjoyed for recreational purposes so many times over the years while growing up in the state of Maryland. So much about it and other aspects of our natural world, over time, has changed for the worse. The activist organizers of today’s protest action, Including Mr. Kennedy, and also the other speakers at the event, and the many members of the participating groups, understand the difficult challenges that our fragile environment faces from those who would do it harm.
Now, however, it’s time for all of the rest of us, who care about our nation’s ecosystems  ; who cherish our country’s wild rivers  ; its habitat, wildlife and fast-fading glaciers ; what’s left of its ancient forests and countryside ; and splendid waterways, set within canyons, whose age predates humankind on this planet by tens of millions of years ; to play our part and to take a firm stand for the environment and to fight back against those who would exploit it for their own commercial end.  If we don’t take action, if we stand aside as spectators, those corporate vultures and powerful multinationals, like Big Oil, will do to the Arctic Refuge, what Enron’s gang of corrupt white-collared criminals did to its own workers, to its natural gas customers and to its investors, too: ruthlessly rip it off! 
. Check out the shocking, fact-filled documentary, "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B00005JO8E/
. An edited video of the remarks of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., made at the rally on Sept. 20, 2005, can be found here: http://homepage.mac.com/bhughes2/iMovieTheater153.html