Chronicling the War of Nature vs. Greed: A Review of “Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point”

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The collected essays of Native Alaskans, environmental activists, scientists and researchers form a counternarrative to Big Oil’s PR blitz in the increasingly polluted Northern Hemisphere.

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

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.

“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 all.”

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.”

This article is a Truthout original.


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

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