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Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land Hardcover – April 1, 2003
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"... this book is an eye-opening treasure." -- NEWSDAY book review, May 18, 2003
"A 192-page celebration in words and pictures of the bird life of America's greatest wilderness refuge..." -- Leopard Report
"Arctic Wings is a celebration of bird life in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,.." -- Field Notes from North Cascades Institute
"Banerjee's photographs provided irrefutable evidence of the refuge's rich ecological diversity as well as its fragile and unmatched beauty." -- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"Brown's book is a visually and verbally compelling look at the Arctic." -- San Antonio Express-News
"Stunning photographs....The beautiful photographs and interesting text will appeal to many." -- Wild Bird
"These images are sharply at odds with the notion...that the refuge is a frozen, lifeless place." -- San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, 2004
"This is a tour de force of the Arctic landscape.." -- The Oregonian
Banerjee['s]...exquisite photos allow the voices of plants, animals, and indigenous people to be heard. -- E Magazine
This book should be required reading of every senator, congressman, and president. -- The Explorers Journal
From the Inside Flap
It is a land of pristine wilderness, pulsing with life even in the depths of white subzero winter. Entirely unscarred by roads or signs, it is the place in all Alaska where the polar bear most often prefers to den. It is host to more than 180 resident and migratory bird species that journey from six continents and all fifty states to nest and rear their young. Because of the massive herds of Porcupine caribou who converge upon the coastal plain to calve each spring, it is known as "the American Serengeti." To the Gwichin people, who call the refuge their home, it is "The Sacred Place Where Life Begins."
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a touchstone for all people, one of the few remaining ecosystems on our planet unaltered by human impact, where true wilderness can still be experienced. But now the refuge is showing signs of global warming: immense McCall Glacier, measured to have lost more than thirty feet in depth in the last forty years; the northward march of the dwarf willow, moving at a pace not seen in 8,000 years; the alarming decline of the muskox, forced to forage where their calves are vulnerable to predators. And the refuge is further threatened by oil development, which would forever unravel the delicate pattern of nature found here.
Award-winning photographer SUBHANKAR BANERJEE devoted two years of his life to documenting the land, its wild species, and its Native peoples. With Inupiat guide Robert Thompson, Banerjee traveled 4,000 miles through the refuge on foot and by raft, kayak, and snowmobile during all four seasons. With more than 200 breathtaking color images, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land makes this case: Leaving the refuge intact in all its mysterious beauty is vital to the survival of this unique ecosystem.
Banerjees photos are paired with six essays and a foreword by former president JIMMY CARTER.
In his essay, PETER MATTHIESSEN paints in living color the glorious profundity of life encountered on an expedition at the refuge. FRAN MAUER examines the full range of Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems found here. WILLIAM MEADOWS recounts the Wilderness Societys role in creating the refuge and helping to protect it for over forty years. DEBBIE MILLER profiles native Gwichin and Inupiat families, by choice tied to the land for survival despite the pressures they face. GEORGE SCHALLER recounts the first expedition that led to the creation of the refuge. DAVID ALLEN SIBLEY experiences the wonder of the Arctic coastal plain aflutter with nesting birds from all six continents. Each comes to the same conclusion: The refuge is an abundant and critical habitat that would be irreversibly destroyed if exploited for oil.
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Unlike other coffee table books of this style, the text is actually interesting. The book discusses the history of ANWR and displays maps showing the refuge, bird migration patterns, etc. The book features writing from an all-star cast, including former president Jimmy Carter and Peter Matthiessen. It's worth reading through.
Fortunately, Congress seems to have gotten over its bout of insanity and is no longer trying to open ANWR to oil prospectors. However, with another election, that could well change. Hopefully, more of our representatives will take the time to at least flip through this book and see the wilderness and wildlife whose future they control. In fact, it should be required reading before any future votes on ANWR.
In my opinion, this book is environmental advocacy in its finest form. As always, advocacy is controversial. Another "reviewer" of this book, Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, who is an avid supporter of oil drilling in the Refuge said in a Senate speech "This book is pure propaganda."
Developing and preserving the more than 500 National Wildlife Refuges have been contentions political issues since Theodore Roosevelt established the first one in 1903. There have been continual battles between using the Refuges for activities such as mining, military exercises, grazing, and use of motorized vehicles and their primary purpose of protecting wildlife. In that sense, the ongoing ANWR debate is "simply" the latest and best known of a long series of struggles between development and conservation in the Refuges. (The recently published Smithsonian Book of National Wildlife Refuges contains an excellent account of this history.)
The case for development can be quantified in terms of dollars and cents, jobs, and taxes to be collected. By contrast, the case for conservation is impossible to quantify. It depends on softer almost spiritual arguments -- demonstrating the value of natural beauty; understanding that preservation of the diversity of all species is almost certainly crucial to the preservation of our own, and preserving for future generations small portions of the planet untrammeled by man.
Reconciling these objectives for the ANWR is ultimately a matter of judgement for it's guardians -- the American people and their elected representatives. To decide wisely we need to be informed about the land and the issues that surround it. Thus I encourage you to buy (or borrow from your library) this important book, read it, and share with your fellow citizens what you have learned.
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I just came home from a dinner with Peter Mattiessen at the University of Tulsa, at which he...Read more