I had a job over Christmas break collecting signatures for a ballot initiative in Alaska to ban the aerial hunting of wolves. I know what you're thinking - people still shoot wolves from planes? That's what I thought, and I'm from there. It's a little more complicated than that; the truth is, the state already voted to ban it once, but in the legislature's infinite wisdom, they decided to pass a bill to allow it, for predator control. Because, as we all know, if there aren't enough moose and caribou for hunters, the answer is to kill the wolves. I suppose that's what I get for living in a state that has more caribou than people. No one has considered that there are too many hunters. (I would, of course, recommend that everyone see the movie Never Cry Wolf to see a similar debate in Canada, and an awesome movie at that).
So, anyway, I got $1 per signature.
So, there I was, standing in the sky bridge between the parking garage and the mall, asking people to sign this petition.
I personally think it's a pretty good idea. The objections to the aerial hunting is that 1) it's inhumane and unfair. Hunters run the wolves until they're exhausted, then shoot them from the plane or get out and shoot them. I'm all for giving the wolves planes to hunt the hunters, but that idea hasn't gone over very well either. 2) It's not currently based on biological data. Right now, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sets the hunt based on public testimony, meaning that if there is the perception of less moose and caribou, that's weighed into the decision even if the decline has nothing to do with more predators.
Like I said, as the greeny, liberal, hippy, tree hugger I am, I support the bill and want to see it on the ballot. Also, after my crazy island adventure, I kind of needed the money.
But, with all that said, people didn't have to be rude. It's not the people that disagreed with the initiative who were rude. Most of them just said they agreed with the hunt, or had hunters in the family. That's fine. I was specifically instructed not to stand there and argue with people. And you can have differing opinions, even if they are inhumane. (I wish I could have said that, but it would have been mean after they were polite).
No, the rude people were the people that just didn't care. The people that, when asked "Are you registered to vote in Alaska" would just look at me, and keep walking, not even acknowledging that someone was talking to them. Or the people who claimed to not be registered to vote.
The apathy is what amazed me the most. Maybe it's because I tend to surround myself with people who care. It's not necessarily that they care about the same things I care about, but they care about something. If nothing else, they vote, and are semi-aware of what goes on in the world.
"I don't sign petitions."
Like that's going to show them? Those darn politicians! If I refuse to participate in the democratic process, then they'll reform themselves. I won't vote, or even register to vote. That'll make sure my voice is heard!
Maybe I'm still too naive. Maybe I trust too much in representative democracy. I'm not stupid, though. I've followed the Jack Abramoff story, and I agree, too many politicians, in both parties, are corrupt. But for me, that's more incentive to get involved. That's more of an incentive to sign petitions. Because if we don't look out for our best interests, they're certainly not going to in Alaska's capital, Juneau, Salem or D.C.
Democracy is the best we have. Could it be better? Of course. That's why I still vote.
- Elizabeth Meyer is a senior in environmental science. The opinions expressed in her columns do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Barometer staff. Meyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.