From Publishers Weekly
In this poetic cri de coeur, Bass (The Book of the Yaak
) turns his focus to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He visited there to join the Gwich-'in tribe in its annual hunt for the life-sustaining caribou—as the Bush administration pressured Congress to open the herd's traditional calving grounds to oil drilling. This bittersweet account of his stay conveys a profound appreciation for the immense, unblemished majesty of one of the few almost untouched landscapes on Earth; an eye-opening understanding of the intimate spiritual and physical connection, stretching back as much as 10,000 years, between the scattered Gwich-'in tribes and the migrant caribou; and an unexpected respect for how tribal elders and a young generation of activists in Arctic Village (pop. 150) have developed a media-savvy offense against "predatory" Alaskan politicians desperate to drill for a few months' worth of petroleum. Bass is no starry-eyed optimist arguing abstractly for the environment; he concludes his emotional defense of the Gwich-'in uncertain that the preservation of a precious, ancient way of life is possible. But this eloquent narrative holds out hope.
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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where corporate and governmental interests want to drill for oil, is the homeland of the Gwich'in, "people of the caribou," a group that has lived on this harsh land and hunted its animals for 20,000 years, making the ongoing debate over the preservation of the refuge as much a human rights issue as an environmental concern. Bass, a well-known, profoundly expressive writer, traveled to Arctic Village to get a sense of what's at stake. He couldn't be a better emissary. Not only is Bass a hunter and a lover of pristine terrains, he has also worked as an oil and gas geologist. In his knowledgeable, impassioned, and involving inquiry, he describes the stark beauty of the tundra (home to numerous animal species), profiles savvy and resilient individuals determined to protect the Gwich'in way of life, and explains the damage done by oil-drilling operations. Ultimately, Bass asks, which is worth more to humankind, an insignificant amount of oil (more could be conserved with improved fuel economy standards) or an ancient culture and a glorious ecosystem? Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved