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Subhankar Banerjee: Shell Game in the Arctic

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Instead of harshly criticizing Obama's offshore drilling policy, green groups have generally appealed to his good environmental sense and instincts -- a strategy that has not worked. This attitude is changing however. In May in a letter published in the New York Times, David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, wrote: "Imagine: a president who ignores the advice of his own scientists on a key environmental issue, dredging for votes in an election year. Sound familiar? The administration is ignoring warnings from the Coast Guard, the United States Geological Survey, the Government Accountability Office, and hundreds of scientists. All say the [oil] industry is not prepared to drill safely in Arctic waters. Their nightmare scenario: a BP-like blowout in an ice-locked sea."

Litigation has been the next best option. Iñupiat activists and green groups have, in recent years, filed numerous lawsuits meant to impede or stop Shell's drilling plans. Some were won, others lost, but the plans to drill remain ongoing.

Monkey wrenching is the last resort. Greenpeace has been leading the charge on that with creativity and passion in their Save the Arctic campaign. Above all, though, if we are to protect our oceans, the public must be engaged.  If our children and grandchildren are to experience the excitement of seeing blue whales breach and feed, we better get busy. After all, Shell is adrift in Arctic waters.  It's time to bring them back to shore.

Subhankar Banerjee is a writer, photographer, and activist. Over the past decade he has worked tirelessly to conserve ecoculturally significant areas of the Arctic, and to raise awareness about indigenous human rights and climate change. He is the editor of a new book, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point (Seven Stories Press) and won a 2012 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Award. His Arctic photos can be seen this summer in three exhibitions, All Our Relations at the 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia, True North at the Anchorage Museum in Alaska, and Looking Back at Earth at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. To listen to Timothy MacBain's latest Tomcast audio interview in which Banerjee discusses the importance of the Arctic, click here or download it to your iPod here.

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Copyright 2012 Subhankar Banerjee

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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