Dear Sen. Stevens,

This week you got your wish: a 51 to 49 vote against the Cantwell amendment and in favor of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Caribou in the Arctic Refuge.

Photo: Ken Whitten, Wilderness Society.

The crude minds have spoken. Finally.

You told your colleagues and anyone else who would listen that you have been clinically depressed for 24 years — the same 24 years it has taken you to convince the Senate to vote in support of opening up the coastal plain for oil and gas exploration.

ANWR dreams. Finally.

No doubt, you are celebrating with your president, your vice president, your secretaries of interior and energy, stewards of industry all, raising goblets of oil, north.

What I want to know is this: What will you do, Sen. Stevens, when drilling in the Arctic Refuge begins, when the technologically correct pumps that look like “rows of outhouses” on the tundra are doing their duty, in and out, in and out, pulling the oil up through the permafrost as the one million barrels a day that you promised are spilling black gold into American coffers (ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching) and you hear the heavy coins raining down on the backs of caribou? What happens after the ice roads melt and the insect trucks are turned on their sides destined to become the corrosive artifacts of the Bush II Era (call it the Era of Ecological Deformation) and you, Sen. Stevens, now as an old man, are still depressed?

What if the man in the chair with his head in his hands, rocking back and forth, in and out, in and out, is simply staring at the cardboard walls of his own impoverished imagination?

Disgusted, appalled, heartsick, astonished,

Terry Tempest Williams

This piece was originally published in Orion Online.