Welcome Subhankar Banerjee (SubhankarBanerjee.org) and Host Will Potter (WillPotter.com)

Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point

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]

128 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Subhankar Banerjee, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point”

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Subhankar, Welcome to the Lake.

Will, Welcome back to the Lake, and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

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Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Thank you, Bev. I’m excited to be hosting this discussion today with an author who I greatly respect.

Subhankar, let’s dive right in!

You have a fascinating background for someone who has become an internationally-known author and photojournalist in defense of the arctic — engineer by training, Indian by birth. What prompted you to shift gears and travel to one of the most remote areas on the planet?

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm
In response to BevW @ 1

Thank you Bev. Thank you Will. Hi everyone!

Elliott September 16th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Welcome to the Lake
Thank you for putting this collection together. How long did it take to organize?

dakine01 September 16th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Good afternoon and welcome to FDL this afternoon Subhankar and welcome back this afternoon Will.

Subhankar, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in there but what were the biggest surprises as you wrote this? Is there any part of it you would especially like to rub in the noses of the “drill baby drill” crowd and/or the oil company execs who seem to think (or at least claim) that everything will always be sweetness and light and no problems will ever occur?

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:03 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 2

Thank you Will.

I hope you all will be a bit patient with me. I type slowly, don’t text or chat, my niece calls me a dinosaur when it comes to technology, and its nap time!

But here we are. I guess opposites attract, I grew up in the tropics in India, so Arctic intrigued me I guess. In the book that’s why I called my intro from Kolkata to Kaktovik.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:04 pm
In response to Elliott @ 4

Well, this book itself has taken two years, since mid 2010, but you know the most contributos are friends and colleagues whom I’ve working with for the past decade, so its kind of an ongoing thing really for a long time.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 5

so many things to rub everyones nose really. we’re killing the planet, at a rapid pace, and we need to slow down a bit, the Arctic is truly a canary in the coal mine. But I must say republicans and democrats alike are doing everything they can to kill the ecological health of the planet and future of all life.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:08 pm

One point that I was completely shocked to learn from your book is that there is an estimated 4 *trillion* tons of coal in the arctic. That’s 4,000 years of supply at the current rate of U.S. consumption. Could you talk about the significance, and the danger, of this?

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

This looks like a beautiful but poignant addition to the climate change story, the voices of people on the frontline, so needed in the artificial climate of national priorites on energy ‘needs’. Can you say at all what alternative story effects are happening, if any, in the far north to resist this madness? (It must be particularly difficult when communities have benefited from Alaska’s redistribution of oil and gas profits for them to just say no.)

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Mahalo, Subhankar and Will for being here at the Lake…! Subhankar, have you seen this research…? Global Extinction within one Human Lifetime as a Result of a Spreading Atmospheric Arctic Methane Heat wave and Surface Firestorm

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 9

sorry about the silence, somehow my browser didn’t refresh it.
Yes, Will, I too was shocked when I learned that. In the US we consume about 1 billion ton each year, and in the the western Arctic Alaska we have an estimated 4 trillion ton of coal! Scary really.

warp9 September 16th, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Thanks Mahalo, Subhankar and Will , welcome to FDL!

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to juliania @ 10

in fact, big part of the book is first person narratives from many members of both the indigenous Gwich’in and Inupiat communities. Alaska politics is complicated as oil indeed generated a lot of money for the state with benfit that mostly went to the big cities while most villages and rural communities didn’t improve much at all. But the bigger issue right now are these communities are struggling with the issues of climate change and the government and corporations is pusshing for more and more oil development.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 11

I haven’t seen this yet. Thank you for sharing. The issue of methane is huge in the Arctic, a time bomb really and it is already getting released through melting of permafrost both on land and in subsea, we talk about that in the book.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:20 pm
In response to juliania @ 10

I think that’s a great point, juliania. It seems that the economic reality is often twisted to make communities think that they will benefit from self-destructive practices. And if they don’t support these practices, they’re often overrun.

Peterr September 16th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

I am only about halfway through the book, as each essay is something I find myself chewing on for a while before I’m ready to read the next one.

Andri Snaer Magnason had one of the most perceptive paragraphs I’ve read in a long time, in describing how Alcoa and other corporations have turned Iceland upside down and now are looking to repeat the story in Greenland (p. 117):

If I tell someone he’s probably not the best man to beat Kasparov at chess, he won’t be insulted. If I tell the same man he has no business conducting negotiations with a global corporation, he will, however, feel slighted. More often than not, grandmasters of negotiations are dealing with mayors who have previously run one kindergarten school and taken care of maintenance on a couple of streets and sidewalks, and given four teenagers summer jobs.

The asymmetry is stunning, and this single paragraph really nailed it.

hackworth1 September 16th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Subhankar, Thanks for writing your book.

I, too would like to know your opinion re: the question posed by CTuttle above at comment # 11.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Methane as a greenhouse gas is more than 20 times potent than CO2 and its being released due to climate change. And now our government is sending Shell up there to drill for oil that we will burn and generate more CO2 and warm the Arctic a bit more…

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Subhankar,

I am a longtime fan.

We often share your book, Seasons of Life and Land, with our friends, and my wife shares it with students. I’ve ordered three copies of Arctic Voices – one for me, one for my wife, who works in Alaska Native villages, mentoring first and second-year teachers, and one for her to give to the curriculum folks at the Alaska Statewide Mentoring Program at UAF. I’m hoping that the book will somehow enter the high school curriculum up here.

Hope to meet you someday.

Philip Munger – (known as ET at firedoglake)

tuezday September 16th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

I don’t know to what extent this was reported but 2-1/2 years after the Deep Water Horizon disaster, Isaac brought ashore tarballs and oil drenched pelicans. Drilling in the Arctic shouldn’t even be up for discussion.

Suzanne September 16th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

welcome to fdl subhankar and welcome back will. the photography in the book is stunning and helped me see what the various voices in each chapter was trying to protect, save, prevent.

i’m still reading it but wow, thank you so very much for writing this book.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Peterr @ 17

Peter, you’re right. Andri points out how Alcoa hijacked the word sustainablity in Iceland. And now corporations all over the world are hicaking the “green” as we saw in the recent UN Climate summit.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 20

Philip, Thank you for sharing. I just returned from Alaska giving two talks in Anchorage and Fairbanks and am inspired despite the destruction I’m learning each day, mainly the young people are determined to take on the fight through creative resistance, poets, artists… all from Alaska.

hackworth1 September 16th, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Shell Oil is determined to get drilling in the Arctic ASAP. As fall is now upon us, has the corporation sidelined efforts until next thaw?

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

At this moment, in the Chukchi Sea, the icebreaking tug, Tor Viking II is burning fuel at 8.1 knots, the icebreaker Fennica, burning fuel at 7.9 knots, the giant oil storage tanker Affinity, burning fuel at 5.6 knots, and the large vessel Nordica, at 9.2 knots. All in the Chukchi, and all in violation of what had earlier been the agreed upon air quality standards for the Chukchi drilling operation.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

I seem to be working or out of town every evening you present here.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to tuezday @ 21

In the book, we point out that even after 25 years Prince Williams Sound hasn’t healed from Exxon Valdez disaster. Shell’s drilling in the Arctic Ocean is a cruel plan that the government has initiated as no one knows how to clean up an oil spill from under the ice in the harsh Arctic conditions.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Subhankar: As you note above, both Democrats and Republicans have terrible records on this and most other environmental issues. Do you think there is any potential for working within electoral politics for arctic preservation? What are other examples of activism and resistance that you have seen on this issue?

Peterr September 16th, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Indeed.

Andri’s essay was still rolling around in my head when I got to Dan O’Neill’s piece about the decline/demise of the King salmon runs. I wonder what Andri would make of Stan Zuray. This kind of interplay among essays in a single collection is what I love about good anthologies.

Were there things like this that grabbed you, as you saw one piece intersecting with another?

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 2:30 pm

It is an excellent source…! ;-)

What are your thoughts on the fact that we’ve experienced our first-ever Arcticane, and, for the first time in the modern era that a Tropical Storm (Leslie) has made it up into the Arctic Circle…? 8-(

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 26

Yes. It is in violation of the Air Quality Act. In the book we point out that the Obama administration is violating several environmental laws by sending Shell up there, including the National Environmental Policy Act as they refused to do an Environmental Impact Statement. And also waived the air quality permit recently. All moving forward without an outrage.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to hackworth1 @ 25

No. They will probably be re-anchoring the drilling platforms by Tuesday, as the ice that stopped them last week is moving on. They will be granted as many drilling extensions this early fall as Obama feels he needs to counter claims he is rough on oil companies. Watch for it to come up in the debates.

Here’s a map I posted at Flickr of the scale of what their fleet in the Alaskan Arctic will look like once fully deployed.

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Subhankar’s website – ClimateStoryTellers.org

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thank you. I look forward to reading the accounts. Sadly, your information on how the monies are distributed and the influence of corporations on government shows that the citizens of Alaska, with all its wild beauty and the world’s future face to face with this imminent conflagration, are still, like the rest of us, engaged in a fight simply to be heard.

Thank you for the link, CTuttle. Truly alarming.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Peterr @ 30

Yes Peter. The entire purpose of the book is not information, but finding interconnections as I pointed out in the intro. You know we think of the Arctic as a remote place disconnected from our lives, but I think of the Arctic as the most connected place and in the book we try to show some of these interconnections.

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Will Potter’s website – WillPotter.org

Peterr September 16th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 29

This is exactly why I loved (and was infuriated by) the story of Stan Zuray. It’s a battle between data-driven science on the one hand and political ideology on the other.

The fact that Zuray was the lead author on a major scientific paper is stunning, and is testimony to how indebted the scientific community is to someone who knows both the fish, the science, and the political battlefield.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to Peterr @ 38

The demise of the King Salmon that Dan O’Neill writes about and Stan Zuray is bringing to our attention is a kind of unneccesary destruction as with appropriate management it can be reversed perhaps, but federal scientists are trying to silence his work.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:37 pm
In response to juliania @ 35

the citizens of Alaska, with all its wild beauty and the world’s future face to face with this imminent conflagration, are still, like the rest of us, engaged in a fight simply to be heard.

Those of us struggling to be heard are not exactly an overwhelming majority. More like an energetic minority. Subhankar, by bringing in important Alaska Native voices in his new book, is looking toward the right people. He and I have both seen the pulls that are exerted on Alaska Natives by big corporations, just like he described happening in Iceland.

And we’ve both met highly educated young Natives who want to save not just their own cultures, but Alaska itself.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:37 pm

In my book I document the tactics used to repress and marginalize environmental activists (more on that at GreenIsTheNewRed.com), and I know that is something you’ve encountered in your research as well. Right now, indigenous people who are fighting to save their lands are more and more being branded as terrorists. Could you provide some examples of this that you have encountered? How do you explain it?

Peterr September 16th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I loved this from your intro:

If we ask a simple question, “What do you think of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?” we might potentially get the following answers. “It’s home. To us, it’s home,” says Robert Thompson [an Inupiat hunter and conservationist]. “It’s a beautiful landscape,” says the tourist. “It’s a pristine wilderness, untouched by man,” says the conservationist. “It’s a frozen wasteland,” says the politician. “It’s a nursery. This is where I was born,” would say a bear or a bird, or a caribou if it had a voice. They are all talking about the same piece of land.

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Is there no enforcement/injunction to prevent this? Surely the Pres. can do lots of things, but can’t there be some push-back?

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 40

In the book we have several key pieces by indigenous voices Caroline Cannon who just won the Goldman Prize this year, Robert Thompson and many others about how their voices are not being heard, how the government is completely ignoring what they have to say about Shell’s drilling. You know Dan O’Neill who wrote the Yukon King Salmon essay wrote the book Firecracker Boys, in which Ed Teller, father of Hydrogen Bomb wanted to detonate six large nuclear bombs about 30 miles from Caroline’s village of Point Hope in the 1950s. Only becayse of resistance from her community, a few biologists from U of Alaska and few conservationists that plan was stopped. But the government still did some nuclear testing without anyone’s knowledge that comntaminated their water and animals they eat. In Arctic Voices Caroline writes about young people are dying of cancer in her communitty today, including her own daughter diagnosed with leukemia… And now the Obama adminstration is about to inflict a great catastrophe with Shell’s drilling in the Arctic Ocean. They point out how their voices are being ignored. But resistance is what we need and that is all we have left.

Peterr September 16th, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Have you gotten any reactions from politicians to Arctic Voices? What about scientists?

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 41

Will you articulated this powerfully in your book, Green is the New Red. It’s happening all over the world actually. Let’s take the example of young climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher, who is now in prison for creative act of non violence to protest an illegal oil lease sale by the Bush administration; or Manuela Picq writes in Al Jazeera how indigenous people of South America who resist industrial destruction are branded as terrorists, or forest dwellers in India that I write about in a piece. As we point out the book, indigenous people of the Arctic are going through great challenges now with climate change, but instead of helping these communities to heal we are sending Shell and other oil companies out there to destroy more.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:50 pm

You know Dan O’Neill who wrote the Yukon King Salmon essay wrote the book Firecracker Boys, in which Ed Teller, father of Hydrogen Bomb wanted to detonate six large nuclear bombs about 30 miles from Caroline’s village of Point Hope in the 1950s.

Back in 1992 and 1993, I considered writing an opera about Project Chariot. Dan had published articles about Teller and Chariot for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and was putting the finishing touches on Firecracker Boys. He showed me the stash of Edward Teller stuff at the Rasmuson Library at UAF, and I made digital copies of the old tapes of Teller addressing the legislature, the Alaska Council of Churches and the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. Awesome, scary stuff that is more Stangelovian than Kubrick’s take.

Never finished the opera, but corresponded with Teller, who gave me his OK to turn him into an operatic bad guy.

That’s part of how I got the handle “Edward Teller.”

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to RevBev @ 43

You know, administration after administration, republicans and democrats silenced and gagged federal scientists to promote destructive drilling in the Arctic, Reagan did that; Bush did that; and Obama has done that. But one organization that I have a lot of respect for is PEER who has shown light for these acts and it did backfire on them. Bush’s secretary of Interior Gale Norton was caught and the story broke in Washington Post; Obama initiatives backfired and the story was told. We need to tell the truth, just the way it is.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:51 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 47

I was wondering.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I think what makes this particularly offensive is that, as you have highlighted in your work, little attention has been paid to what companies like Shell have done around the world, such as Shell’s atrocities in the Niger Delta. There is outright violence by these corporations against entire communities, and yet it’s those who resist who the violence who are being labeled “terrorist.”

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to BevW @ 37

Thank you for posting this link, Bev! I may be grasping at straws, but is it possible that Shell may have bitten off more than it can chew? Since Mr. Potter reports that conditions in the Bering Sea are becoming adverse to drilling, might the weather itself play such a factor that we have enough of a reprieve to change (as we must) the direction in which the world is heading?

“This is very bad news for Shell as it will likely threaten their drilling operation, again and again, with large ice floes, but it’s very good news for Arctic marine life struggling to survive in a melting north.”

As I said, grasping at straws, but I can’t help hoping the planet will have a say in this.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Peterr @ 45

Politicians — NO! There was a time I could work with politicians, I worked with Senator Barbara Boxer who was and remains to be a champion of the Arctic Refuge, but not anymore as I’m critical of both sides, the truth is hard. About scientists, a big YES. As you’ll see in the book we have probably six or seven essay by scientists working in the Arctic now ongoing studies, great stuff that public has no knowledge about.

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

~ Cree Indian Proverb

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

And now the Obama adminstration is about to inflict a great catastrophe with Shell’s drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

We’re being assaulted from every direction. In the Arctic, it is Shell and others. Down, just below the Alaska border in NW BC, there’s the possibility probability of huge tankers navigating scary waters (I know from running vessels there!) running tar sands oil to the Orient.

There is no way in hell supertankers should be anywhere near Kitimat.

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to juliania @ 51

Pardon me, that was Mr. Banjaree’s website.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 50

Yes, Will, thank you for pointing out Nigeria. UN published a report last year that showed Shell and other oil companies systematically destroyed 1000 sq km of the Niger Delta and the way of life of the Ogoni people and that it will take 30 years to repair the Niger Delta; but I also pointed out that Shell’s atrocities in the Sakhlin Island in Siberia, none of this is part of our public dialogue here in the US and the media is asleep, while Obama personally fast tracked Shell’s drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Here’s a question for Subhankar and for the entire group:

Even as drilling comes closer to home (or closer to US soil) we still hear little about the impact of these actions on indigenous communities. Why do you think that is?

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 2:58 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 54

To expand on that proposed Pipeline, the First Nations that are fighting it tooth and nail are also being labeled as Terrorists by Harper and his ilk…! 8-(

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 53

Thank you for sharing.

I’m an optimist, a cautious one, and the best thing of doing this book was that there is community, a rather large one, indigenous leaders, youth, scientists, writers, conservationists, those in the book and many many who are not are all telling the same stories of resistance. We just need to build a bigger movement.

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 3:00 pm
In response to juliania @ 51

Not grasping at straws – I’m hoping Shell will realize the risks and re-evaluate the situation. Voices and public push back will help that. The planet always has the last say.

Will, Subhankar, ET, could you add your thoughts to this?

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Your coverage of Dr. Charles Monnett and ex-Prof. Rick Steiner has been excellent, and your raising the importance of PEER is something some readers here might need to know more about.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is engaged in a number of issues, most unrelated to Alaska, but all related to how governmental agencies seem to fuck over some of their best when they get in the way of corporations or powerful apparatchiks.

Also, readers here should take some time to read Subhankar’s most recent article at Huffington Post, BPing the Arctic Again.

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

You are very welcome,sir.

By any chance does your work include any reference to the Shell/BAE/Al Yamamah arms for oil scandal? Not much was made of it in the US media…

BAE Arms Contract Bribes Under Investigation in 7 Countries (*Shell at the heart of Al-Yamamah oil-for-arms scandal)

Dec 10th, 2008
by John Donovan.

Allegations of bribery by BAE to secure arms contracts are now under investigation by the authorities of seven countries, plus the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development which holds oversight authority over international commitments on corruption. BAE executives have even been detained in the United States for questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Unfortunately, Shell will not realize or reevaluate, nor will the government owned by corporations, but it is really up to us. As Chris Hedges pointed out in your yesterday’s conversation it is up to us to resist.

The scary thing is that, the fossil fuel industry has stolen the rhetoric, its now all about developing domestic sources of fossil fuels — Arctic Ocean, deepwater Gulf of Mexico; the Tar Sands in Canada, all the fracking for natural gas, on on… Another hundred years of fossil fuel drivel culture… while climate change keeps wreaking havoc.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to BevW @ 60

I’ll let Peter Slaiby answer that one for you, from an article posted an hour ago in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The man at the centre of Shell’s controversial drilling programme in the Arctic has said he is aware of the responsibility on his head but is convinced the Anglo-Dutch oil group is acting in a fully responsible and accountable way.
Speaking after a huge ice floe forced drilling 112km off the north-west coast of Alaska to be temporarily halted, Peter Slaiby, vice-president of Shell Alaska, insisted that the company had learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
‘‘We are raising the bar in the way we have been working with local communities,’’ he said. ‘‘We have made 450 different trips to consult and listen to any concerns. We believe the way we are doing this is important – not just for Alaska but for the wider Arctic region.’’

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 62

Thank you for point this out. I did’t address this, but I’ll now look into it.

Phoenix Woman September 16th, 2012 at 3:08 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 58

The funny thing is that it’s so ridiculously expensive to get tar sands out of the permafrost (it has to be mixed with natural gas just to get it to flow into a pipeline) that the only ships capable of transporting the gunk anywhere as cheaply as a a pipeline are supertankers — and BC has no ports capable of docking supertankers.

So all the “well if you don’t let us build the pipeline to Houston we’re just going to sell it to China so there!” talk is just a big fat bluff.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to BevW @ 60

Thanks Bev. It certainly reflects the hubris of Shell to attempt such reckless operations in the arctic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t possibilities for stopping it. As both you and Juliania note, one of those possibilities might be the natural world itself.

There are other possibilities, though: I think we need to remember that “risks,” as corporations see them, can extend to other risk factors such as negative public relations and popular resistance. As Subhankar noted, at the core of all this is building a bigger movement.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

… while climate change keeps wreaking havoc.

We’re having our second unprecedented late summer wind storm in Southcentral Alaska. Two weeks ago, it blew over 120 in the hills outside of Anchorage, and over 100 in town, downing many thousands of trees. Right now, we’re having another one, predicted to go over 100.

While high winds aren’t out of normal for this part of Alaska, they have never been so severe before late October. Consequently, the trees still have their leaves, which makes them easy prey for going from 60 feet high to 60 feet long.

Pure and simple – it is climate change.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 64

Slaiby is lying. They didn’t listen to the concerns of the community members, as the contributors to Arctic Voices point out with great detail. One example, a simple question that Robert Thompson asked again, and again at the meetings Slaiby is referring to, “can oil be cleaned up in the Arctic ice”, and as Robert writes no one has answered his question.

And here is a good story. In 2006, when then Secreatry of Interior Dirk Kempthorne came to Alaska for his historic “listening session” in Fairbanks, and after listening to the concerns of everyoneone he told us, “I have listened to your concerns, but I must follow the President’s mandate and sell these lands and waters to the oil companies (I’m paraphrasing him) we tell that story. So when Slaiby is saying that they listened to the concerns, its a big huge lie.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 67

I’ve looked at Shell’s infrastructure for this drilling operation fairly closely. Although it appears they have gone to enormous expense and effort to put together the most thoroughly redundant setup yet for Arctic drilling, the bottom line is simply that it will fail utterly to be able to stop a spill in Winter, once production begins ramping up. As Dr. Riki Ott said about the Exxon Valdez, only a couple hours before the tanker ran aground in 1989, “It isn’t a matter of ‘if.’ It is a matter of ‘when.’”

bluewombat September 16th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

OK, I’m gonna ask a question and don’t yell at me:

If there are still blizzards up there, temperatures plunging to -100 below zero and shifting ice, how does that square with melting ice and drowning polar bears?

Kind of a devil’s advocate question, I guess.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:16 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 68

Yep. I missed that big storm in Anchorage by a day.

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

To be clear….The President’s mandate refers to…?

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:19 pm

You know one more thing I’ll point out is that, the nonhuman world, the animals, we are wiping them out an unprecedented rate, as I wrote they are falling off like autumn leaves. It is not easy to talk about it, you don’t get votes by talking about it, media isn’t interested as it isn’t drammatic enough, but the truth is along with indigenous communities the animals of the Arctic are facing very serious survival challenges, from walrus to polar bears to caribou … the list goes on. And, yet we are delaying action to help their survival but is in a great rush to send oil companies. And that is the painful reality.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

It is a huge lie. Speaking of big lies, have you ever found out how Ted Stevens was able to screw with your Smithsonian exhibit and say that neither he nor his staff had anything to do with it, with a straight face?

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

This will be of value to you:

BAE Systems: timeline of bribery allegations | Royal Dutch …
Years of bribery investigations into BAE Systems by the Serious Fraud Office were brought to a close today, when the company was fined after pleading guilty to …
royaldutchshellplc.com/2010/12/21/34854 – Cached

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 75

Thanks for posting that link. If folks aren’t familiar, it’s worth checking out the history of the controversy. In short, the Smithsonian was pressured to modify the captions and placement of Subhankar’s photo exhibit. So shameful.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:24 pm
In response to RevBev @ 73

The President is personally interested in opening up the Arctic Ocean to Shell and other oil companies, and has been for a while, he is in great support of offshore drilling, no matter how dangerous it is as in deep water in the Gulf of Mexico or in the extreme climate of the Arctic. So, for the Arctic he avoided doing an Environmental Impact Statement, his adminstration rubber-stamped Shell’s permits after permits, and even waived the air quality rules. In March 2010 the President while announcing his energy plan said that he believes today’s technology is so advanced that there are usually no oil spills, three weeks before Deepwater Horizon; and now in June Secretary Salazar said that he believes that there will not be an oil spill from Shell’s drilling (last year in Nigeria in a tropical environment Shell had 60 spills).

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 75

*wow* That’s certainly one big Badge of Honor ya earned, Subhankar, wear it proudly…! ;-)

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

BAE Systems: timeline of bribery allegations

Dec 21st, 2010
by John Donovan.

Years of bribery investigations into BAE Systems by the Serious Fraud Office were brought to a close today, when the company was fined after pleading guilty to failing to keep proper accounting records in Tanzania. Here is a timeline of investigations of the defence company:

(ADDED BY JOHN DONOVAN: SHELL PLAYED A KEY MONEY LAUNDERING ROLE IN THE BAE CORRUPTION DEAL PRINTED IN RED TEXT)

Conclusion:

2010: In February, BAE agrees to pay a $400m fine to the US after admitting to “defrauding the US” over the sale of fighter planes to Saudi Arabia and Eastern Europe, and also reached a £30m settlement with the SFO, relating to “breaching its duty to keep accounting records” in Tanzania.

The SFO (Serious Fraud Office)says it will not seek a prosecution of BAE for the allegations it has been investigating for six years, inlcuding Eastern Europe

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Thank you…..from the 2006 reference, I’d assumed Bush…who of course would have been helping his friends. Such as the Stevens story. Just keeps going, doesn’t it? Is Obama’s interest also for his “friends?”

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 75

Oh yeah! Ted Stevens made me famous, I didn’t get a chance to send him a thank you letter. Seriously it was scary when all that was going on, as I wasn’t a citizen, and a powerful Senator calling you liar on the Senator floor was no easy thing. But you know with Gwich’in Steering Committee and other environmental organizations we kept telling the truth as we knew it, and we prevailed in stopping Bush to sell of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to big oil, it’s kind of unbelievable but it happened.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to RevBev @ 81

You know, Big Oil and King Coal, and Big Banks — they own our government. No surprise there. Only thing we get is who is gonna be the worse… its a great spectacle!

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

What a coincidence, in February 2010,Shell agrees to a $400 mn fine to US.

And just one month later- March 2010- the Prez announces his idealistic energy plan.

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Right….I was just thinking….it’s making me sick. Congratulations on your courage.

mzchief September 16th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 80
bluewombat September 16th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Well, let’s try this again (see post 71):

If there are still blizzards up there, temperatures plunging to -100 below zero and shifting ice, how does that square with melting ice and drowning polar bears?

Am not a climate change denier, but have friends who are, so you can help me out here.

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 3:33 pm

When I first read your title, Mr. Banerjee, “Resistance at the Tipping point”, I thought of that tipping point as being the climate change tipping point. But now I see that it really also includes the great need for resistance itself to reach and pass a tipping point of its own. We saw it in some of the political protests, with climate change an underlying factor. Surely as more and more young people such as you bring the unheard voices to the forefront in this most urgent protest of them all, one way of pushing over the monolithic story is to add our voices to those of your friends up north. It can just be little things, little ways, but we all need to do it. To simply get the word out that the planet is in such danger of not supporting life. We in the West are also seeing these changes writ large.

That word ‘resistance’ is a good one. I am wondering if the behemoth may in fact be flailing when it looks as though it is remorselessly taking the last shred of our existence and commodifying it. Might it not be that these are dying gasps of a failed economy? A bubble of Arctic exploration that in fact cannot succeed? In which case, as it falls, let’s all do our best to step out of the way, on the downward side of that tipping point.

Young people like you do give me enormous hope. Thank you both for what you do. Thank you for coming here. (Don’t tell the FBI, but I’m thinking of doing some flyers myself – oops).

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:35 pm

One of you asked about a surprise. The biggest surprise as I was thinking about the book was coming across the work of Marla Cone, former senior environmental writer for the LA Times, and her remarkable book Silent Snow: Slow Poisoning of the Arctic that she calls the Arctic Paradox (there are many paradoxes there now). What she writes about is painful, the Arctic is thought to be the most pristine environment free of pollution, but the reaqlity is that it now has some of the world most polluted animals and humans, breast milk of high Arctic women in parts of Greenland and northern Canada is considered so toxic as hazardous waste. Its because of the toxins are migrating from all the over the world to the Arctic. That was the most painful surprise for me.

dakine01 September 16th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 87

There are still winters and yes, blizzards and minus 100 degree F temps happen in winter, even during times of global warming when the polar ice cap has melted more than ever before. The ice doesn’t freeze back as thickly and as quickly as it has in the past so more melts each summer.

homeroid September 16th, 2012 at 3:37 pm
In response to CTuttle @ 79

X2

bluewombat September 16th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 90

Ah, thank you.

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 68

In New Zealand the same thing is happening. I can remember one huge storm when I was little there. Now they occur more and more often, roof removal type stuff. The thing I can’t understand is that we are all invested, spiritually speaking, in these precious parts of the globe, rich or poor – even if we will never go there, but the rich DO go there. Don’t they want to preserve it, for crying out loud; don’t they want to preserve THEMSELVES???

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 87

Glad you brought this up. The Arctic Ocean, even with climate change is technically free of ice say three to four months, rest of the time it is ice covered. So the cold temperatures you are referring to is during winter months which is 8 to 9 months each year. Then when the Ocean is free of ice, before al these climate change you still would have plenty of sea ice, large blocks of ice floes for ice-dependent animals like polar bears and walruses to survive. But with climate change that is disappearing. We cover all these in great details in the book.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

It wasn’t the first time he mucked his way into messing with an exhibit there. Back in 1995, he forced the Smithsonian to change an exhibit featuring the Enola Gay, changing it from reflective to pretty forthrightly warlike.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) opened the hearing by stating, “We are here today because the Smithsonian decided to present an interpretation of the history of the Enola Gay’s historic flight. The veterans in this country reacted strongly, for good reason, to the scripts that emerged from the Smithsonian. In the 50 years since World War II ended, and recently, there has been a constant erosion of the truth of what really happened during that war.”

Stevens pointed out that the purpose of the hearing was to review what went wrong with the Smithsonian’s process — “particularly, what led the Smithsonian to propose a view of the events that took place at the end of World War II that was contrary to those who lived through the war.”

After recounting key milestones in the controversy, AFA President Smith said, “As we pointed out in our very first report on the Enola Gay, this is not the first flawed exhibit at the Air and Space Museum or within the Smithsonian complex. We believe that actions should be taken to ensure that curators in our national museums have the benefit of review and comment by a full range of recognized experts and that mechanisms be put into place to ensure that this happens.”

Anyway, I was told that the way he got to the Board of the Smithsonian was through his wife, Catherine. She had been corporate Counsel for the National Endowment of the Humanities, and knew every board member of the Smithsonian, some very well. That’s how he was able to say that neither he nor his staff had had anyrhing to do with it.

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

OY!

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 87

Not sure I’m following, but I’ll give it a shot:

When people talk about climate change, they are not arguing that the arctic has become the tropics. The fact that there are still blizzards in the arctic is no indication of the health of the ecosystem because, as Subhankar and many others note in Arctic Voices, there are many, many consequences of climate change (melting permafrost, los of biodiversity, melting glaciers, and more). I sincerely hope that we, as a culture, do not wait until that most extreme point to care about what is happening in the arctic, because that will be far too late.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 87

Also I just wrote a recent post, its in ClimateStoryTellers.org about how some regional variation like the Pacific Decadal Oscillation might be responsible for the large ice floe that stopped Shell’s drilling, one day after they started. But the fact is that, overall circumpolar north is warming at a rate twice that of the rest of the planet, and this year the extent of summer sea ice has hit historic low, breaking the pervious record of 2007.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Next up – Arcticanes!

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 95

Does your link give accurate details of the controversy? Thanks for the history.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Don’t they want to preserve it, for crying out loud; don’t they want to preserve THEMSELVES???

There are some basic flaws in human evolution. Nuclear policies are more reflective of this than energy policies.

bluewombat September 16th, 2012 at 3:44 pm

Thanks to you and Will Potter for your responses.

I’m not as well-versed on the details of climate change and environmental issues because I concentrate my activism on torture, illegal wiretapping, civil liberties stuff. Can only do so much, gotta hope that environmental degradation is so obvious it will naturally have a large constituency.

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 87

Think of the Arctic as a high Mountain Top, complete with a tree line and all, mix in permafrost, and, you realize that it’s always cold and windy up there…! You always have a Summer(and/or Day) Melt, but not to the unprecedented levels of this year alone…! 8-(

homeroid September 16th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 99

Might put you at ease there is a big patch of blue over the inlet right now:)

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:46 pm
In response to RevBev @ 100

Here’s a link to the wikipedia article on the Enola Gay’s section on the controversy. It happened before most news outlets had gone digital, so there isn’t a whole lot of info. The wikipedia article is footnoted though.

EdwardTeller September 16th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to homeroid @ 104

the eye, eh…?

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

And they already know this from the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 102

Unfortunately this is not the case. Rarely does environmental concerns come up in Presidential debates or the convention speeches, if ever. President Obama never even used the phrase “climate change” in any of his State of the Union, and Romney outright made fun of it. Republicans think its a hoax, and Democrats think if we just don’t talk about it it will go away.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

It’s a great website. It seems that most people think of the arctic as either 1) pristine or 2) “empty” and “ugly” as Ted Stevens famously said. There’s such a disconnect. Stories like this help bring it to life.

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:49 pm
In response to EdwardTeller @ 105

Thanks….Stevens is the gift that keeps on giving. Can I say that?

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

“President Obama never even used the phrase “climate change” in any of his State of the Union, and Romney outright made fun of it”

The fact that the two presidential candidates either do not mention, or will not even acknowledge, the existence of climate change probably shouldn’t be shocking to me, but it still is.

Acknowledging it, of course, would require action.

rhenley September 16th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

The current ice cover extents can be obtained via this web site here:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

Note too from the Guardians coverage from this weekend, that the majority of ice which appears to be left at this time now are just separate floating chunks of ice bergs, and not a sheet of ice:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/picture/2012/sep/14/arctic-sunrise-sea-ice-melt-big-picture?intcmp=122

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment

Even more background on the Arctic Ice is covered in this week’s Radio Ecoshock program here:

http://www.ecoshock.info/

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to Will Potter @ 109

Someone recently asked me how I’d describe the Arctic, a friend an Arctic Voices contributors Jeff Fair, a scientist and poetic writer responded, “the largest grassland” made sense, it’s not your usual grassland, but grassland nevertheless, the cottongrass, and then the vast ocean. we need new ways to talk about the Arctic to counter the lies of the politicians and corporations.

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:52 pm

May we inform our guest that comments can still be posted AFTER the close of today’s salon?

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Fantastic point. It really speaks to the power of language in framing this debate.

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Subhankar, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the voices for saving the Arctic and our planet.

Will, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Subhankar’s website (ClimateStoryTellers.org) and books (Arctic Voices)

Will’s website (WillPotter.com) and books (Green Is The New Red)

Thanks all, Have a great week!

If you would like to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to bluewombat @ 71

If you go to Mr. Banerjee’s website, ClimateStorytellers.org , you’ll see that explained there in detail – I think he called it an oscillation. Sort of a two steps forward, one back scenario. Alaska is still Alaska, but it’s going in the wrong direction overall.

BevW September 16th, 2012 at 3:54 pm
In response to Gitcheegumee @ 114

The salon will stay open for comment for 24 hours.

Subhankar Banerjee September 16th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thank you Will. Thank you Bev. Thank you all for sharing your ideas.

homeroid September 16th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Looking forward to reading this book. Thank you.

RevBev September 16th, 2012 at 3:56 pm

You know, for believers, one of the most powerful images for God is as the “Creator.” Doesn’t that imply some regard for the creation? This whole discussion has been very helpful and dare I say, Spiritual in its regard for the world around us. Many thanks. (I usually do not go to this topic.)

Gitcheegumee September 16th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thanks to all here-especially the wonderful guests and hostess- for an informative interlude.

Will Potter September 16th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you Subhankar (and all the Arctic Voices contributing authors) for your work. And thanks to Bev, FireDogLake, and the great community here for engaging these topics. It was a pleasure.

CTuttle September 16th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa, Subhankar, for all your tireless efforts…!

Mahalo, Will, Bev, and all, for another awesome Salon…! *g*

juliania September 16th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Thanks to all – I think we were all in agreement! Now, that’s a good start.

BevW September 17th, 2012 at 9:15 am
juliania September 17th, 2012 at 10:52 am
In response to BevW @ 126

That is simply wonderful.

rhenley September 17th, 2012 at 12:27 pm
In response to juliania @ 127

The fine print mentions this continuing drilling though:

Shell has a flotilla of ships in the Arctic waters, and company officials say they still hope to drill several pilot holes 1,400 feet deep in the Chukchi and Beaufort, the first drilling in the region in more than two decades. The company has Department of Interior permission to drill the preliminary holes without the containment dome and barge on site since the company will be operating thousands of feet above zones that contain oil and gas. The preliminary holes will eventually hold blowout preventers, the emergency equipment designed to shut a well down when surges of oil and gas are out of control.

After this year’s drilling, the holes will be capped to await further drilling next summer. Most of the permits Shell has spent years to obtain will carry over to next year, and the company said it still hopes to drill up to 10 exploratory wells in the two seas.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/business/global/shell-delays-arctic-oil-drilling-until-next-year.html

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