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Kelly Tshibaka demonstrates her own extremism

  • Author: Bill Sherwonit
    | Opinion
  • Updated: June 23
  • Published June 23

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2019 fle photo, Alaska Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka addresses reporters in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen,File)

As one of those dastardly “environmental extremists” who so infuriate Kelly Tshibaka, I found her recent self-serving commentary to be more laughable than offensive. Still, one element of her diatribe did deeply offend me, as it should anyone who takes the notion of “sacred” seriously. More on that later.

Being one of the foils she uses to make her case, I understand that I’m not Tshibaka’s target audience. But I can’t help but wonder who this senator wannabe intends to convince she’s the right person to replace Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Because in her own way, Tshibaka too is an extremist, one who apparently sees the world through the distorted lens that so many Trump-supporting Republicans do. And that makes her way more dangerous than any leftist, greenie radical.

One thing I do appreciate about Tshibaka: She pulls no punches while making her positions very clear on a variety of issues. Unfortunately for her, those positions reveal a person who seems out of touch with many realities.

While parroting tired clichés of federal overreach and environmentalist obstruction and the notion that the federal government wishes to turn all of Alaska into a giant national park, Tshibaka seems stuck in old, worn-out and harmful ways of thinking.

No matter what she and other oil-and-gas boosters desire, the world is moving away from fossil-fuel based energy. Alaska has to somehow wean itself from its addiction to Big Oil, not tenaciously cling to an old paradigm that even many industry insiders recognize is outdated and harmful to the health of our planet — and our species.

Here’s more delusional thinking: the myth of Alaskan “self-sufficiency and economic independence.” Our state would be in enormous trouble without the steady flow of money from the same federal government that Tshibaka and her kind love to ridicule and oppose.

Most scary of all, perhaps, is what seems to be Tshibaka’s blind devotion to Donald Trump, whom she insists — among other things — was “good for Alaska.” True for her Alaska, perhaps, but not mine nor that of many other Alaskans. Again, she holds a view that’s distorted by her allegiance to an “energy” sector centered on petroleum products. I’ve read her commentary several times and don’t see any reference to greener, more sustainable and renewable energy sources.

I’m surprised Tshibaka hasn’t offered a catchy phrase, perhaps “Make Alaska Great Again,” because she seems stuck in the past, rather than looking ahead to a future that’s healthier for the entire Earth, Alaska included.

I’m hoping that Tshibaka’s full-throated support for Trump ends up being the kiss of death for her campaign. I have mixed feelings about Murkowski, but it’s to her great credit that she has stood up to Trump on at least a few important occasions and found at least some of his behaviors unacceptable.

It’s bad enough that we already have one Trump-loving senator in Congress in Sen. Dan Sullivan. While Tshibaka’s views may appeal to the conservative base in Alaska, I’m hoping that our state’s many independents will see the folly — and danger — of her allegiance to Trump and a dinosaur industry.

If nothing else should turn Alaskans off, it should be Tshibaka’s casual — and inappropriate — use of “sacred.” I do agree with her that “Alaska’s lands are sacred,” except for those that have been descrecrated by our species and our penchant for exploiting the Earth’s natural riches.

For someone who sees Alaska’s lands and waters as largely storehouses of natural resources and human “commodities” to use the word sacred in this context is repugnant to me. That’s one thing we environmental extremists understand pretty well, the notion of sacred. And I can affirm that Kelly Tshibaka doesn’t get it at all. From where I stand, her views seem downright sacrilegious.

Anchorage nature writer and wildlife advocate Bill Sherwonit is a widely published essayist and the author of more than a dozen books, including “Living with Wildness: An Alaskan Odyssey” and “Animal Stories: Encounters with Alaska’s Wildlife.”

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

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