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Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of Gwich'in, Inupiat & Inuit "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point" ISBN: 9781609803858

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    Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of Gwich in, Inupiat & Inuit Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point ISBN: 9781609803858 ... From:
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      Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of Gwich'in, Inupiat &
      Inuit "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point" ISBN: 9781609803858
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      From: Portside Moderator <moderator @ portside. org>
      Date: 2 August 2012 16:47
      Subject: Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of "Arctic
      Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point"
      To: PORTSIDE@...

      Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of "Arctic Voices:
      Resistance at the Tipping Point"
      By Eleanor J Bader,
      Truthout - Book Review -
      This article is a Truthout original.
      Reprinted with permission of the author
      July 24, 2012


      Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point
      Edited by Subhankar Banerjee
      Seven Stories Press
      New York, 2012
      Price: $26.96US

      - Format: Hardcover
      - Pages: 560
      - Pub Date: July 3, 2012
      - ISBN: 9781609803858

      "...According to editor Subhankar Banerjee, "the Arctic is warming
      at a rate double that of the rest of the planet." This, of
      course, has already had a discernible impact on the animals,
      fish and people of the region - and beyond. As rising
      temperatures have put many scientists and everyday folks on
      high alert, they are increasingly primed for battle against
      profit-hungry corporations and the drill-baby-drill crowd, who
      see the Arctic's immense stock of coal, oil and other natural
      resources as a tremendous boon - environment be damned.

      The 31 essays in "Arctic Voices" contest this destructive
      greed. Some focus on the indigenous cultures that stand to be
      eradicated by the folly of energy companies; others address
      the visible destruction of the lands and waters of Alaska,
      Russia, Iceland and Greenland. Dozens of photos - both black-
      and-white and color - hammer the realities of contamination
      and pollution. It's a sobering read, especially for urban
      dwellers whose existence is far removed from the subsistence
      lifestyle of the Gwich'in, Inupiat and Inuit people.

      "We're all connected to the northern hemisphere," Banerjee
      writes in an introduction to the volume: "

      Hundreds of millions of birds migrate to the Arctic each
      spring from every corner of the earth - including Yellow
      Wagtail from Kolkata - for nesting and rearing their young
      and resting - a planetary celebration of global
      interconnectedness. On the other hand, caribou, whale and
      fish migrate hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles,
      connecting numerous indigenous communities through
      subsistence food harvests - local and regional
      interconnectedness. However, daily industrial toxins
      migrate to the Arctic from every part of our planet,
      making animals and humans of the Arctic among the most
      contaminated inhabitants of the earth.

      Indeed, Banerjee notes that the breast milk of women in
      Greenland and northern Canada is "as toxic as hazardous
      waste." Additionally, author Marla Cone, in an excerpt from a
      book entitled "Silent Snow," presents evidence that Inuit
      women, who eat a diet rich in whale and seal meat, have high
      levels of mercury and PCBs in their bodies. As a result, when
      they breast feed, these poisons are passed to their offspring,
      putting them at risk of cancer and other diseases.

      But let's step back a bit. Martha Shaa Tlaa Williams' essay,
      "A Brief History of Native Solidarity," puts today's crisis in
      historical perspective by zeroing in on the mistreatment of
      Native populations both before and subsequent to Alaskan
      statehood. As early as the 1920s, she reports, Native
      communities challenged racist laws that barred Indian children
      from public schools and took issue with pervasive stereotypes
      that viewed them as savage and unsanitary fodder for Christian
      missionaries. More than 30 years later, when Alaska became the
      49th state in 1959, the average indigenous person had only a
      sixth-grade education, infant mortality rates were extremely
      high and tuberculosis was epidemic. Worse, the average
      lifespan of Alaskan Natives was just 34.7.

      Despite these obvious problems, Williams writes that "the
      proverbial Phoenix rose from the ashes as a direct result of
      the Statehood Act." The Act specifically said that the state
      could claim lands only if they were "vacant, unappropriated
      and unreserved," but Williams concludes that the Alaskan
      government simply grabbed what it wanted.

      The upshot was that indigenous people's property rights were
      often trampled - land and waterways that had long been relied
      upon for sustenance were taken for nuclear testing and the
      building of massive dams. While Native people prevailed in
      stopping Project Chariot, a 1959 plan to detonate enormous
      atomic bombs on Alaska's north slope, they have been less
      successful in stopping either dam construction or corporate

      Pamela A. Miller's "Broken Promises: The Reality of Big Oil in
      America's Arctic," presents the rationale for opening up the
      coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil
      companies. Essentially, pro-drilling forces have always argued
      that the process would not harm the environment. Take a
      statement issued by BP when Prudhoe Bay was first opened to
      development in the late 1970s: "No unsightly drilling rigs are
      left to mar the landscape; they are moved as soon as their
      task is done. Only a relatively small system of flow lines
      will be installed above ground to carry the oil from each well
      to the gathering centers. Formal clean-up programs keep
      Prudhoe Bay part of the wilderness."

      Not so, Miller writes. In fact, since oil was discovered in
      Prudhoe Bay in 1968 and the pipeline began removing it in
      1977, an area the size of Rhode Island has been continually
      plundered. What's more, more than 6,100 exploratory and
      production wells, 500 miles of roads, two refineries, 20
      airports, 1,000 miles of pipelines, 27 production plants,
      hundreds of residences and numerous power plants have been
      erected and now cover 1,000 square miles of once-pristine
      land. "Prudhoe Bay air pollution emissions have been detected
      nearly 200 miles away in Barrow, Alaska," Miller writes. "The
      oil industry on Alaska's north slope annually emits
      approximately 70,413 tons of nitrogen oxides, which contribute
      to smog and acid rain. This is more than twice the amount
      emitted by Washington, D.C. according to the Environmental
      Protection Agency, more than many other U.S. cities." Among
      the pollutants found: Carbon monoxide, methane, sulfur dioxide
      and volatile organic compounds.

      As if this weren't heinous enough, Miller reports that more
      than one spill occurs each and every day. Although such
      accidents rarely make national news, she writes that there
      have been 6,000 spills of 2.7 million gallons since 1998. And
      predictably, recovery is nearly impossible due to ice, snow
      and cold, even in an era of global warming. Furthermore,
      Miller concludes that more than 100 sites are already badly
      contaminated - a fact substantiated by a 600 percent spike in
      respiratory illnesses in and around Prudhoe Bay.

      That the oil industry shrugs this off - and minimizes the
      damage wrought by large-scale disasters like the Exxon Valdez
      spill and BP explosion - has not only enraged
      environmentalists, both Native and not, it has led to action
      and organizing. Indeed, for the first time in decades, Native
      groups have banded together to fight big oil and preserve the
      cultural continuity that has defined their people for tens of
      thousands of years. Their reverence for, and connection to,
      the earth - its animals, water, mountains and land - is
      beautifully described in "Arctic Voices," and each essay is as
      much a prayer as a call to activism.

      Despite the area's relatively small population - on the
      American side, 65 Native communities are home to an estimated
      27,500 people - their fierce commitment to their way of life
      makes them a force to be reckoned with. Just ask George W.
      Bush. Much to his displeasure, GWB's attempt to open the
      Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development was
      defeated thanks in part to opposition by a group called the
      Gwich'in Streering Committee. That said, the struggle is far
      from over, and the task remains twofold: to clean up the
      damage that has already been done and to stop further
      encroachment. It's a tall order.

      "Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point" is an eye-
      opening account of a precious place that few of us will ever
      visit. At the same time, the many writers included in the
      anthology not only share their love of nature, but also raise
      important questions about our reliance on oil, gas and coal.
      In addition, one basic point drives the collection. In the
      words of Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former chair of the Inuit
      Circumpolar Council: "The Arctic is the barometer of the
      health of the planet and if the Arctic is poisoned, so are we

      If she's right, and there is plenty of scientific evidence to
      back her claim, we're nearing the point of no return. The
      contributors to Arctic Voices - scientists, indigenous people,
      environmental activists, researchers and scholars - have given
      us the tools we need to understand the calamity. As Vandana
      Shiva, author of "Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and
      Development," writes, "The earth and her beings have been
      speaking. We stay deaf at our peril."

      [Eleanor J. Bader is a freelance writer, teacher and feminist
      activist from Brooklyn, New York. She writes for The Brooklyn
      Rail, ontheissuesmagazine.com, RHrealitycheck.org and other
      progressive blogs and publications.]

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