Backcountry Chilling Over Oil Drilling [Book Review]

By Sam Cook

Jun 16, 2016

There’s been a debate about it since 1980.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been threatened for years because of the oil within its borders. Due to political pressure, a 1.5 million-acre section of coastal plain was left unprotected. In 1980, Congress renamed the region, calling it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA).

Now, the ANILCA prohibits oil and gas development on that coastal plain, but allows for Congress to permit it in the future.

We Are the Arctic

Photo by Molly Herber.

We Are the Arctic is a great book to pick up and learn about the people, landscape, and wildlife that define the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s filled with stunning photography and stories from outdoor enthusiasts around the world who all have the same goal in mind: protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling.

We Are the Arctic is a collection of 25 different narratives from voices including:

  • Miho Aida: Aida is a former NOLS instructor. Now, Aida is a filmmaker and educator who made the film The Sacred Place Where Life Begins: Gwich’in Women Speak. The Gwich’in people are the original inhabitants of the Arctic and the refuge is sacred space for the caribou and the Gwich’in heritage (you can read a review of the film in The Leader).
  • Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky: DJ Spooky is a National Geographic explorer, musician, artist, and writer. “To experience the openness of a place like the Arctic Refuge is powerful, and hits the reset button on my creative process,” said Miller.
  • Kit DesLauriers: DesLauriers is a NOLS alumna who took a Semester in Alaska, and is a two-time world champion freeskier and ski mountaineer. She took an expedition to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 2010 and skied the highest mountain in the Brooks Range.
  • Heather Zichal: Zichal is a policy advisor and former deputy assistant to President Barack Obama for energy and climate change. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has defined her career and she has worked hard to protect it.
  • Jim Campbell: Campbell is a Vietnam veteran and Arctic guide who finds the healing energy of nature in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “In the Arctic Refuge, that energy is present in its purest, most unaltered, uninsulated form,” said Campbell.
Alaska wilderness

Photo by Doug Adams.

Wildlife roams free in the refuge's 19 million acres, with over 250 bird and animal species including porcupine caribou, grizzly bears, musk oxen, polar bears, and wolves.

“What best defines Alaska, not only to ourselves but to the world: one last wild, protected space, or another guzzle of oil?” said Nick Jans, an author and photographer from Alaska.

Learn more about the book on the We Are the Arctic website, and check out NOLS Alaska courses here.

Written By

Sam Cook

Sam is a student at Western Carolina University who likes to do fun activities outside, from long walks in the mountains to cooking extravagant meals on her stove. She was a student on a NOLS Mexico semester in 2013, earned her Wilderness First Responder certification in 2016, and was the summer 2016 NOLS Alumni Relations intern.

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