Gulf communities are still dealing with the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest disaster of its kind in the history of the petroleum industry. The leak gushed unabated for three months. But how much worse could the damage have been if it occurred not in the mild weather conditions of the Gulf, but in the midst of blizzards, with temperatures plunging -100 below zero, in a region of shifting ice, violent storms, darkness, no roads and few seaports?
Drilling in the Arctic is infinitely more reckless than other oil industry operations, and the repercussions are even more costly. The damage that could be done, the damage that is being done, may be irreparable. The Arctic is warming at a rate double the rest of the planet. Climate change is melting permafrost on land which is releasing methane from primordial wetlands — and accelerating climate change further. And as this occurs the Arctic is also absorbing pollution from around the world, which has created an “Arctic Haze” in the sky and contaminated the breast milk of indigenous women to toxic levels.
The Arctic is frozen and harsh and unforgiving; it cannot spring back easily from this destruction.
Author and photojournalist Subhankar Banerjee’s new anthology Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point exposes these dangers and goes much further, offering a nuanced examination of what Arctic drilling would mean for everyone, from local communities, to regional wildlife, to the health of the planet.
Most importantly, Banerjee situates this discussion firmly within a broader critique. He describes what he calls the arctic paradox: Corporations are spending billions in hopes of extracting more coal, oil, and gas from the Arctic, yet “the very thing that is devastating the Arctic — global warming — is the result of accumulation of greenhouse gases that we see from the burning of coal, oil, and gas.”
The 39 voices in Banerjee’s anthology speak from personal experience and with urgency. He notes a saying of the Tikigaq people: “Never tell one story. Always add a second. That way, the first one won’t fall over.”
He is talking about the decision to include multiple authors in this work, of course, but in many ways it speaks to the environmental crises we are facing. Fossil fuel culture has been a singular, monolithic story. And it is falling over. What we are seeing now, in the broad range of responses represented in Arctic Voices, is a chorus of resistance.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]