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Alaskan leader stands up to oil industry and wins — here's her story

In 2007, oil companies started expressing interest in tapping into the area.

In 2007, oil companies started expressing interest in tapping into the area.

Photo Credit: iStock

One Indigenous leader entered the global spotlight to stand up to the oil and gas industry's plans to drill near her small community of Point Hope, Alaska, as reported by One Earth. 

Situated in the heart of Alaska's Arctic region, Point Hope is home to Indigenous Iñupiat people, who depend on its marine ecosystem to survive. Drilling for dirty fuel threatened both Point Hope's environment and its residents' way of life.

What happened?

In 2007, oil companies started expressing interest in tapping into the oil reserves surrounding Point Hope, and the U.S. government released plans for offshore oil and gas leases. 

Caroline Cannon leaped to action, traveling to Washington, D.C., hundreds of times to advocate for her community, as One Earth reported. She also became the voice of the Iñupiat in a federal lawsuit opposing the drilling of and exploration for dirty fuels in the Arctic.

In the end, Cannon's efforts paid off. She won the lawsuit, which put a stop to oil and gas exploration in Point Hope. Her victory earned her the 2012 Goldman Environmental Prize

A global solution 

Cannon's actions not only protected her people's way of life, but also helped to safeguard wildlife in the area. One Earth called Cannon's fight against offshore drilling a "global climate solution." 

That's because dirty fuels, like oil and gas, are by far the biggest contributors to our overheating climate, accounting for over 75% of all planet-warming pollution, according to the United Nations. 

If we do not curb the use of these dirty fuels, we can expect terrible consequences, including extreme weather events, more heat-related illnesses, and droughts that threaten our food supply. 

Cannon said she is motivated by her 26 grandchildren and stressed the importance of her work, telling One Earth: "We have to take it seriously because one incident, and that's all it takes. One mistake, a blowout, and we saw what happened at the Gulf of Mexico." 

You too can be a climate hero by taking local action. You can also reduce your dependence on dirty energy sources by changing how you get around — get started by opting for more environmentally friendly transportation options like riding your bike or taking public transit. 

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