Wondrously Blank: A Plea for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

From ENNThe world would be far poorer, Aldo Leopold famously observed, “without a blank spot on the map.” Yet it wasn’t long ago that U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski from Alaska stood in the Senate chamber and declared indignantly that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was no more remarkable than a blank piece of paper.

What, really, is a blank spot on the map? What is its value? These questions are difficult to answer — especially for a money-driven, mechanized society such as ours.

A blank spot, despite its lack of attention from mapmakers, is not empty. While it is devoid of cities, villages, roads, and monuments (as well as drill rigs, trash heaps, billboards, and wrecked vehicles) — it may be full of other attractions. Such as scenic wonder. Or silence. Or wildlife in grand abundance.

And something else, as well. A blank spot on the map often contains precious opportunities for people to explore their outer world — and their inner selves. For a blank spot implies no limits. It is a place of endless reach — for the sunlit horizon, as well as for the human spirit.

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