Posts Tagged ‘Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’

Book Review: Sacred Headwaters By Wade Davis And Carr Clifton

March 12th, 2019

Book Review of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass by Wade Davis with Principal photography by Carr Clifton, Foreword by David Suzuki and Afterword by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Including Other Leading Conservation Photographers such as Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz.

Landscape Photography Reader Note on Process, Life and Persistence:

Graystone Books released the first US Edition of The Sacred Headwaters in March 2012. In June, I wrote a rough draft of this review and by December I had written over five completely different drafts. Carr Clifton asked me to publish what I had on Landscape Photography Reader, but I told him I did not want to put up a blog post of the review as I still wanted to submit it to newspapers and magazines. Most publications of any significance will not publish work that has been previously published in any form elsewhere. I began work on a sixth draft in early 2013, but by then I decided it was too late to submit to newspapers or magazines. Most of them only accept reviews of books that have been out for less than six months. With life and other concerns and obligations intervening in the meantime, I also began reading a much larger body of books on the world water crisis and books about saving rivers. I have collected over 70 volumes about water and rivers to date, over 20 are large format coffee table style, and nearly a dozen are books with photographs by my father, pioneer conservation photographer Philip Hyde.

My idea was to someday publish a large review for a major publication. While that dream still exists in one form or another, it has simultaneously turned into a book-length project about books that have saved rivers to potentially include the work of such greats as John Muir, Wallace Stegner, David Brower, Edward Abbey, Ansel Adams, Dad, Eliot Porter, Martin Litton, Ken Brower, Wade Davis, Carr Clifton and many others. Please pray, do a dance, send good vibes and think supportive thoughts for me that life, death, or hard times will not intervene first. Despite external factors getting in the way and myself getting in the way, from time to time I am happy to find that my skills are improving. While I struggled with this review for more than a year the first time I tried to write it and abandoned that sixth draft only a bit over half finished, when I came back to it this week, all the disjointed, jumbled pieces either discarded easily or flowed together surprisingly well in just a few days. Sometimes once the old karma is worn out, the obstacles just melt away. My sincere apologies to Wade Davis and Carr Clifton for the delay in getting this in front of the world. Blessings and a thank you to my readers. Please enjoy the review and email or comment with any questions or thoughts you may have…

Threats to the Native Homeland and the Salmon Headwaters ‘Yosemite of the North’

Cover of The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine, Skeena and Nass by Wade Davis and Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Harvard trained anthropologist-ethnobotanist and bestselling author Wade Davis represents National Geographic in up to 50 countries a year studying vanishing indigenous cultures. Indicators such as a decrease in the usage of the native language or loss of home through displacement signal the decline of a culture. Davis has seen the loss of a few houses in a native village, the loss of a whole village, or even a people’s entire homeland, but he never thought that his own home would be threatened.

Besides his house in Washington DC and his residences during research abroad, for 25 years Davis has considered his true home a fishing lodge on Ealue Lake at the edge of one of the World’s largest remaining intact wildernesses called the Sacred Headwaters in Northern British Columbia. Born in British Columbia, Davis also worked as a park ranger and hunting guide in the Sacred Headwaters during the 10 years before he built his fishing lodge. The native tribes of the Sacred Headwaters, the Tahltan First Nations, refer to their hunting and fishing lands as hallowed ground because by a wonder of geography three of the greatest salmon rivers of the Pacific Northwest, the Skeena, the Stikine and the Nass all are born in remarkably close proximity to each other in a land of jagged peaks, verdant valleys and forests abundant with wildlife and rushing water. In 2006, IBM Business Consulting sponsored an independent study that found the value of the salmon industry in the Skeena River alone to be $110 million annually.

The Tahltan could still lose this homeland to any of 41 different industrial proposals including large-scale fracking, open-pit mining and coal mining. Wade Davis’ fishing lodge on Ealue Lake lies just under Todagin Mountain, which would lose it’s top to Imperial Metals’ proposed Red Chris Mine. This open-pit copper, gold and silver mine would process 30,000 tons of rock ore per day for 28 years and pour toxic mine tailings directly into Black Lake, one of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, the principal tributary of the Stikine. Besides the Red Chris Mine threat, Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration of coal bed methane gas extraction through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, with gas wells, access roads and pipelines, would criss-cross approximately 10 million acres. Also, Fortune Minerals’ open pit anthracite coal mine on Mount Klappan is currently in the environmental assessment process for a three million ton per year operation. Anthracite is an extra dense, extra hard, rare and energy rich type of coal. Because of these threats, the Sacred Headwaters of the Skeena, Nass and Stikine is number one on British Columbia’s Most Endangered Rivers list.

A National Geographic Explorer Unites With the Voices of the Tahltan Elders and Conservation Photographers

Woodland or Osborne Caribou on the Upper Slopes of Klappan Mountain, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Fortune Minerals seeks to locate an open-pit coal mine here to produce between 1.5 and 3 million tons of anthracite a year. (Click image to see larger.)

To protect their common home, Wade Davis gathered the voices of the Tahltan elders, his own moving narrative and photographs by some of the world’s leading conservation photographers today to publish The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save The Stikine, Skeena, and Nass. While Davis has authored dozens of books, a handful of which have been bestsellers, he had never before produced a photography book, let alone a large format conservation book. To plan his book Davis researched the most significant coffee table landscape photography books.

Large format nature photography books became popular after 1960 when photographer Ansel Adams, conservationist David Brower and curator Nancy Newhall launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, which they intended to serve as “battle books” to defend US wilderness and help found national parks. The idea for the book series began in 1955 with This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers, the first book published for an environmental cause with two chapters by Pulitzer-winning novelist and conservationists Wallace Stegner with photographs by journalist Martin Litton and my father Philip Hyde. In the 1960s, my father, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter became the primary illustrators of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series that brought the beauty of America onto coffee tables around the world, helped advance the momentum of modern environmentalism, saved the Grand Canyon from dams and helped establish Redwood National Park, Everglades National Park, North Cascades National Park and many others.

Many proponents including photographer Eliot Porter and David Brower, the Sierra Club’s first Executive Director, said that the large format books were largely responsible for the massive increases in the club’s membership. Other Sierra Club leaders, including Ansel Adams, worried that the Sierra Club might go bankrupt if it continued to publish such extravagant volumes. David Brower was asked to resign for overspending on publishing and other endeavors deemed reckless by a slight majority of the Sierra Club Board. The books were downsized and all but discontinued. Few volumes of similar quality were mass published until the digital era.

Today, 20 years into the digital revolution, photographic reproduction and book production quality have both advanced dramatically since the 1960s. With the right combination of participants, The Sacred Headwaters now shows it is possible to produce a book of similar quality to the classics in the genre from the 1960s.

The Need for A Large Number of Sweeping Landscape Photographs to Match the Terrain

Black Lake, Kluea and Todagin Lakes in Distance, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Three of the nine lakes that form the headwaters lake chain of the Iskut River, principal tributary of the Stikine. If the Red Chris mine went forward, the entire valley would be buried beneath a mountain of toxic tailings and waste rock, which would leach into one of the world’s most pristine and productive salmon watersheds below. (Click image to see larger.)

Wade Davis knew he could write a good text. He had done it before. He had also made good photographs for National Geographic before too, but he knew that to make the strongest statement possible, he would be wise to obtain help. He turned to the International League of Conservation Photographers, also known as the iLCP. The iLCP is a collection of leading photographers with a mission to “further environmental and cultural conservation through ethical photography.” Trevor Frost, iLCP photographer and home office staffer, helped Wade Davis raise funds for and organize a multi-photographer team to go to the Sacred Headwaters on what the iLCP calls a R.A.V.E. or Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition. R.A.V.E.s aim to achieve a full visual assessment of a threatened ecosystem in a short period of time.

The photographers represented in The Sacred Headwaters who initially joined the RAVE included Paul Colangelo, Sarah Leen, Claudio Contreras, Gary Fiegehen, Brian Huntington, Tom Peschak, Joe Riis and Florian Schulz. Most of these photographers are well known. They made a good number of high-quality images, but the project was still short on enough strong, cohesive photographs for a book, not to mention that it was heavy on wildlife and short on the giant, open and sweeping landscapes that characterize the Sacred Headwaters more than almost anywhere else on Earth.

Wade Davis decided to call on landscape photographer Carr Clifton, who had learned the art of the large format photography book as a protégé of my father and had produced a dozen photography books of his own, not to mention more magazine covers than any other living nature photographer. Most importantly large landscapes have always been Carr Clifton’s specialty. He has been photographing nature for over 40 years. He was one of the primary photographers during the heyday of the Sierra Club Desk Calendars that helped to popularize nature photography. He is also the primary illustrator of nearly a dozen books including Wild By Law, The Hudson, New York: Images of the Landscape, Wild and Scenic California, Justice on Earth, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature and others. Clifton is now one of the all-time most published landscape photographers.

In The Sacred Headwaters, Carr Clifton’s work from the helicopter, in particular, produced giant scenes that explode with color and show off Clifton’s awareness and mastery of how to capture light. The viewer of these pages is awakened to new possibilities in beauty, beginning with the cover photograph. These images depict the proverbial land of plenty, perhaps the last of its scope on Earth. The way Clifton uses unusual camera angles shows more of the land and more of the sky when it is interesting. Even in his Caribou image, he is not at their eye level, he is down at the height of their flanks…

Wildlife is not my forte. I was looking for landscapes when I saw those Caribou. I thought to myself that I had to photograph them as part of the story, but they are not something I would have gone after because I do not believe in bothering wildlife just for my own sake to get pictures. They are already pushed enough. Probably I crouched to hold the lens steady. It was a long lens. With landscapes, it’s not like I do it as a trick or a method. It’s just the way I see. Sometimes I get down really low and close to the subject. Otherwise, with a wide angle lens it looks like the object is down below the picture. When I get down low I can include more. I can get more of the sky and maybe something interesting in the foreground. With the Cotton Grass to show it properly you need to get close. If I shot it standing up, the grass heads would all be the same size. By getting down low and close to the nearest ones, you’re filling the frame with the Cotton Grass. If you are far back you are not going to have as much converging perspective. Still, I don’t think about all of that when I’m doing it. I’m just feeling. Just paying attention and tuning in to what surrounds me. At the same time, I don’t want the subject to take over the image, which is what happens a lot in wildlife photography. I like the design of the rectangle and that’s my art form. Just what is going on in the rectangle. I’m not trying to tell a story, though in this project the combination of the photographs as a grouping and the writing do together tell a story. But with individual pictures, I’m more concerned  with the composition and the makeup of the rectangle, the deisgn of the whole, the feeling it portrays.

A Wildlife Garden of Eden or ‘Serengeti of the North’

Paul Colangelo, besides his also unusually arranged frames of moose, bear and other wildlife, also photographed the landscape and water features from the chopper. “The land has one of the largest intact predator-prey systems in North America,” said Colangelo. He said this earned the area the nickname, ‘Serengeti of the North.’ Canadian also call the large remote and roadless part of British Columbia simply, “’The North.’”

Canoeing, rafting and of course backpacking for miles were needed to access other locations, but the newest method for me was traveling by horseback. I stopped into a cabin to ask directions to a fishing camp and the next thing I knew I was joining the cabin’s owner on an eight-day horseback trip.

Todagin Creek, Todagin South Slope Provincial Park (right side of creek), Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Todagin Creek flowing beneath the south slope of Todagin Mountain down valley toward Tatogga Lake and the Iskut River. (Click image to see larger.)

Carr Clifton logged thousands of four-wheel-drive miles on an old railroad grade that is the only ground access to the Sacred Headwaters. By air, on foot and in his truck, he covered a vast roadless wilderness of approximately 150,000 square miles. He not only participated in the summer 2011 RAVE, but also drove from California back to Northern BC in the Fall of 2011 with no compensation besides reimbursement for his expenses.

For perspective, Wade Davis compared the Sacred Headwaters to wilderness in the US:

In the lower 48, the farthest you can get from a maintained road is 20 miles. In the Northwest quadrant of BC, an area the size of Oregon, there is only one road, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway, a ribbon of asphalt that goes along the side of the coastal mountains to Alaska. It is a region where distances are measured by numbers of boots worn out, and on the roads in terms of the number of axles broken during the journey.

Wade Davis wrote that in the US only one river flows more than 600 miles uncompromised by dams, whereas the rivers of the Sacred Headwaters all run free. Davis opens The Sacred Headwaters with beautiful descriptions of the country supplemented by select observations from John Muir’s 1879 voyage up the Stikine River on his first journey to Alaska. By the end of his side trip, Muir was so moved by the country that he named his dog after the Stikine. He also gave the name to his most well known semi-autobiographical short story. In his smooth effortless prose, Davis vividly summarized Muir’s observations of hundreds of glaciers a day, eagles gathering by thousands to feast on salmon runs so rich they colored the sea, immense hemlock and Sitka spruce forests, mountains dazzling with waterfalls and ice, and how Muir climbed one rocky crag, Glenora, that rises 7,000 feet directly above the river. Muir’s journals described the Stikine River valley as a Yosemite 150 miles long.

Wade Davis sprinkles his text with concrete and entertaining statistics, his writing easily rising into the tradition of such greats as Marc Reisner, Aldo Leopold or John Muir himself.

The biggest canyon in Canada, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, which most Canadians cannot even name, less than 100 people have gone through in all written history. No raft has ever made it. The first Kayakers survived it in 1985. Nobody has ever walked the rim of it. It is far less known than Utah’s Glen Canyon, ‘the place no one knew.’

Shell Used the Standard Ploy of Promising Jobs, but Coal Bed Methane Extraction is Nearly All Automated

Cascade Falls on The Iskut River, Natadesleen Lake, Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, Skeena Mountains, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. Beyond and out of sight are Kinaskan, Tatogga, Eddontenajon, Kluachon, Ealue, Kluea, Todagin, and Black Lakes. (Click image to see larger.)

The corporations proposing the development of the Sacred Headwaters, as well as other mines and natural gas fracking elsewhere, often claim keeping oil development in North America is good for jobs. Davis disagrees:

Shell’s coal bed methane extraction proposal of over 10 million acres, would result in hundreds, probably thousands of wellheads connected by multiple pipelines. That system, once in place, would be virtually automated. This is not about job creation. That’s just a red herring. Even if you look at the Golden Bear Gold Mine owned by Goldcorp, Inc, that is now exhausted, but operated in Tahltan territory for a decade, they extracted $25 billion worth of gold and silver. In the Iskut community, none of the infrastructure improved. A few people have hockey rinks or swimming pools, but there is still no fund for the kids to go to school, no health center and so on.

Shell used the jobs ploy to help obtain approval in the U.S. for the lower half of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The company represents itself in the media as becoming more socially conscious, but spends millions annually to defeat clean energy legislation, said a Natural Resource Defense Council press release. In 2002, Shell moved toward being greener by buying Siemens Solar, the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the world. Rather than staying involved in the solar industry, Shell sold its solar manufacturing division in 2006. Shell is also presently suing 12 environmental groups including NRDC and Earthjustice over proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“Shell has never commercially produced coal bed methane in British Columbia, not to mention in salmon-bearing ecosystems or vulnerable alpine environments,” said Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition. “I don’t think the Sacred Headwaters and our wild salmon should be their guinea pigs.”

Tahltan Nation Briefly Divided, but Ultimately Standing United in Evicting Shell, Fortune Minerals, Imperial Metals and All Other Industrial Development

Davis tells the story of how a split in the Tahltan Nation led to the threats of mining and fracking on tribal lands. A construction company called the Tahltan Nation Development Corporation, founded in 1985 by Jerry Asp, stood to gain from industrial development by building the necessary roads and other improvements. Jerry Asp through deception got himself elected chief of the Tahltan and welcomed in Shell and other corporations. The Tahltan had to withstand lawsuits by Shell, remove Asp from office and set up a blockade to keep Shell out of their lands. The Tahltan have been largely alone in the fight, but because of the continued efforts of iLCP photographers, Davis and groups such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, Big Wild, Forest Ethics, the Suzuki Foundation and many others, momentum shifted before time ran out.

Sunrise and Rainbow Over The Headwaters of the Skeena River, Skeena Mountains, in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters, British Columbia, Canada by Carr Clifton. (Click image to see larger.)

Spearheading the campaign’s momentum, The Sacred Headwaters remained on the Canadian bestseller lists for over a dozen weeks, a remarkable result for a $50 large format photography book. Davis is known in Canada as a “real-life Indiana Jones,” though he is less of a swashbuckler and more a poetic writer, humanitarian, researcher and naturalist. He speaks to sold-out venues wherever he tours to support his most recent bestsellers. His meticulously researched Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest also came out in 2011 as Sacred Headwaters did. The Everest account also quickly became a national bestseller both in Canada and the US.

A reader of Davis’ Sacred Headwaters narrative does not so much begin to read, as dive into the fast-moving current of a river of ideas already established in his other bestselling books including The Serpent and the Rainbow, One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest, The Lost Amazon, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, Light at the Edge of the World, Passage of Darkness, Rainforest, The Clouded Leopard: Travels to Landscapes of Spirit and Desire, Nomads of the Dawn, River Notes and many others. In his research and reporting on native cultures around the globe, he had already excavated a rich channel of knowledge and stories about the loss of native languages, herbal medicines, healing and customs under the advance of cultural domination. In Into the Silence, about the British first attempt to conquer of Mount Everest, Davis obtains a certain redemption by both chiding imperialism and making the compassionate realization that it is still within him, that it came from a less evolved self, his forefathers, our ancestors. In The Sacred Headwaters, he gave the Tahltan natives an opportunity to raise their own voices against economic imperialism as well, in addition to the many photographers and other collaborators he brought on board.

The combination not only worked as a book project, it also became the linchpin of a successful conservation campaign. By the end of December 2012, the Canadian Government, Shell Oil, and the Tahltan Central Council announced protection of the Sacred Headwaters from all oil and gas prospecting and drilling. In 2013 the British Columbia Liberal Party included a “Protection Plan for the Sacred Headwaters” in its election platform. Once the BC Liberal Government won the election, they succumbed to pressure and allowed Fortune Minerals a permit to continue coal exploration in the Sacred Headwaters. However, in July 2013, the Tahltan Central Council passed a unanimous resolution to protect their homeland from all industrial development. In August of that year, Tahltan community members gave Fortune Minerals an eviction notice from their exploration camp and blockaded their road access. In 2015, the Tahltan also blockaded Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine access on Todagin Mountain above Ealue Lake. Wade Davis’ lodge home and the sacred earth of the Tahltan are safe for now, but the threats will continue. My father, Philip Hyde, once said, “Environmental battles are never victorious. They have to be fought and won over and over and can be lost only once.”

For the announcement of Carr Clifton’s largest Sacred Headwaters Exhibition see the blog post, “Carr Clifton at Mountain Light Gallery.”

To read a guest feature by Paul Colangelo about his work in The Sacred Headwaters, the original iLCP RAVE and how NANPA, or North American Nature Photography Association honored him with the prestigious Philip Hyde Grant in 2010 see the guest blog post, “Big Wild, iLCP RAVE Sacred Headwaters by Paul Colangelo.”

Salmon In The Trees: Amy Gulick’s Conservation Photography

July 15th, 2010

A Profile Of Amy Gulick’s Work In Conservation Photography And An Announcement Of Her New Book… Salmon In The Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest

Amy Gulick Won the NANPA Philip Hyde Grant in 2008 for her work in the Tongass National Forest beginning in 2007.

(See also the blog post, “NANPA Philip Hyde Grant 2010” about Paul Colangelo’s conservation photography in Northern British Columbia)

Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest

The Philip Hyde Grant’s 2008 recipient, Lowell Thomas Award winner and founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Amy Gulick, recently launched her new book Salmon In The Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest.

Amy Gulick’s photographs in Salmon in the Trees, document the cycle of life in the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska. The Tongass National Forest contains one-third of the world’s remaining rare temperate rain forests and the largest reserves of old growth forests in the United States. The Tongass rain forest, like other old growth forests, is an intricately balanced ecosystem and a chain of interactions with links that are weakening due to increasing outside pressures.

Continuing In The Tradition Of Conservation Photography Pioneered By Philip Hyde

Salmon In the Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest deepens and expands the work of Philip Hyde, whose landscape photographs helped expand portions of the Tongass National Forest and protected it from destruction nearly 40 years ago. The threats today are greater as the delicate balance of the ecosystems within the Tongass rain forest are at risk. Yet Salmon In the Trees: Life In Alaska’s Tongass Rain Forest, “portrays a hopeful story,” said the website text of the publisher, Braided River. The text continues:

…The Tongass is one of the rarest ecosystems on Earth. Humpback whales, orcas, and sea lions cruise the forested shorelines. Millions of wild salmon swim upstream into the forest, feeding an abundance of bears and bald eagles. Native cultures and local communities benefit from the gifts of both the forest and sea. But the global demands of our modern world may threaten this great forest’s biological riches. With camera and rain gear in hand, photographer Amy Gulick paddled and trekked among the bears, misty islands, and salmon streams… she met bush pilots, fishermen, guides, and artists…

Black Bear Paws and Salmon, Tongass National Forest, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Salmon in the Trees: Life in Alaska's Tongass Rain Forest

Amy Gulick also wrote about her Tongass conservation photography project in Outdoor Photographer in an article with the same title as her book, Salmon In The Trees. The following is from a caption to one of her photographs of the Tongass National Forest in Outdoor Photographer:

At 16.8 million acres, the Tongass is the largest national forest in the U. S.; about 40% of the Tongass consists of glacial ice fields, alpine tundra, wetlands and water, [the rest is temperate rain forest]. Bears play a significant role in spreading nutrient-packed salmon carcasses throughout the forest—the bodies of the salmon decay into the soil, and trees absorb the nutrients through their roots.

Amy Gulick’s Outdoor Photographer article continues:

Salmon live on in frolicking spring cubs, plump blueberries, new growth rings in tree trunks and downy eaglets perched in their nests. And the next generation of salmon is swaddled in the streams and incubated by the forest. The fertilized eggs will soon hatch, ensuring that the cycle of life is a circle, always flowing, never broken…. But we’re on our way to carving up this extraordinary forest. We only have to look south to the once-magnificent salmon rain forests of Washington, Oregon and northern California to see how quickly we can decimate ancient trees, wild salmon and a rich way of life…. Continued threats include logging, mining, industrial-scale tourism, energy development and global climate change.

Salmon In The Trees: The Culmination Of A Three-Year Conservation Photography Project

When I heard about Salmon In The Trees, I asked Amy Gulick if her new book was a culmination of the conservation photography project she was working on in 2008 when she won the prestigious North American Nature Photography Association’s 2008 Philip Hyde Grant. She explained that part of the criteria for the NANPA Philip Hyde Grant is that the conservation photography project already be in progress. She explained:

When I won the 2008 Philip Hyde Grant, I was halfway through completing the photography for my Tongass project. I started the project in the spring of 2007, applied for the grant in August 2007, and was awarded the grant in winter 2008. I then spent the spring and summer of 2008 completing the photography. It took most of 2009 to design and produce the book, web site, YouTube videos, and exhibit in Juneau, Alaska.

Caribou Crossing, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, by Amy Gulick, from the project Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Wilderness or Wasteland?

Besides her conservation photography work in the Tongass rain forest, Amy Gulick’s Internet story “Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Wilderness or Wasteland?” won a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award presented by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. Also, the Alaska Conservation Foundation named Amy Gulick the 2008 recipient of the Daniel Housberg Wilderness Image Award for Excellence in Still Photography. The award recognizes conservation photography projects that advance the protection of Alaska’s wilderness environment, further discussion of issues relating to habitat and stewardship of the state’s natural resources, and enhance greater public education relating to these areas. For more news about Amy Gulick and her conservation photography Click Here and to view the book trailer go to YouTube.

Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill: Who Is Responsible For Oil Drilling And Spilling?

May 27th, 2010

The Quintessential Summary of the Most Important and Bizarre Aspects of the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill, the Response and Who Is Responsible…

Cleaning Spilled Oil In The Mississippi River Delta from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, 2010. Photograph courtesy of Greenpeace and the Mobile Press-Register.

See also the blog post, “New Oil Spills Threaten Fresh Water.”

A neighbor of mine installs solar power systems, lives completely off the grid and drives only restaurant oil powered vehicles. He has a sign on the side of his work truck that says, “Vegetable Oil Powered Vehicle. NO WAR REQUIRED.” He was a conscientious objector to the Viet Nam war, which if you dig a bit you will find was also a resource war like those of the 21st Century. Recently this neighbor had black T-shirts printed that have a picture of an oil drilling rig in flames sinking beneath ocean waves with a slogan across the top, “Happy Earth Day 2010.” His dark sense of irony is not humor.

Over the last 10 years, the battle has heated up over oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Oil drilling promoters claim it would ease our pain from high gasoline prices. Fact is that the total amount of oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is enough to power America’s gas guzzling habit for only a few weeks. We could “develop” far more extra oil than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge could provide, merely by cutting down on driving and increasing car pools. Carl Donohue of Skolai Images wrote a quality blog post about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and recent hearings held on its wilderness status. His previous well-written post was called, “A Tragedy In The Gulf of Mexico.” The controversy of oil drilling has been in the news for a long time.

‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ Has Been The Call For Too Long

On the front page of Section E of the Sunday November 6, 2005 Denver Post, the headline read, “The Big Rush To Drill.” The article covered most of the page and jumped to 4E. It discussed the future of natural gas and oil drilling in the Colorado Rockies. An area east of Parachute, Colorado called the Roan Plateau had 70 gas and oil drilling sites on it. The Roan Plateau next to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River, is rich in both energy resources and wildlife habitat. The article said nothing of what would happen to the water supplies of most of the West’s major cities if oil somehow leaked into the Colorado River.

The Earth Island Journal Spring 2010 issue had “To Drill Or Not To Drill,” splashed across the cover. Members of the Earth Island Institute will remember that cover as a timely one for years to come.

The Natural Resource Defense Council issued a press release on January 26, 2010 titled, “Oil and Polar Bears Don’t Mix. Stop Shell Now.” It said Shell gave the green light to exploratory drilling off the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It pointed out that though the NRDC won a major court victory defeating Shell’s oil drilling plan two years ago, the oil giant is back gunning for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge again. “The shores of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are Alaska’s main birthing ground and denning area for polar bears…. The oil industry has no proven method for cleaning up oil spills in icy water.” The press release further explained that polar bears that swim in oil slick waters or step in oil washed up on shore and try to lick off the toxic oil would die. Whales would also suffocate or be poisoned and “hundreds of thousands of birds would be killed… and seal populations would be severely impacted by the spilled oil.”

A thick black soup in our ocean waters, covering our beaches, saturating our fragile wetlands, and destroying aquatic life and industries, is not the only legacy of oil drilling and spilling. Robert Redford in 2009 warned us in an article for the Natural Resource Defense Council, “We Can’t Drill Our Way Out of This Mess.” In November 2008 just after Barack Obama was elected, Robert Redford also wrote a piece in the Huffington Post in which he said, “Part of the change Americans just voted for in overwhelming numbers was to move away from the failed energy philosophy of ‘drill, baby, drill’ to a more farsighted strategy.”

Even after the spilled oil began to wash ashore on the Gulf Coast and President Barack Obama had put a freeze on additional oil drilling permits, there were still 17 offshore oil drilling projects that were given the go-ahead without any hesitation. Isn’t it time to say enough? To find permanent alternatives? Currently it is difficult for elected representatives of the American people to make any more than small changes in any policy because corporations now legally have the same rights as citizens. This further escalates the manipulation of the political process that has been increasing for years. Is this government by the people, for the people or a free system? Our political process is like a giant Super Bowl ad, produced by the companies with the deepest pockets. What will happen in 10-15 years when fossil fuels are much more scarce? Will we keep burning fossil fuels until we can hardly breathe and have to walk in sludge everywhere? We cannot allow corporate greed and an obsession with growth to dictate our future. Growth enriches the few and leaves most of us worse off.

Who Is Responsible for the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill?

It’s time we snap out of our denial. Who is responsible for the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill? Every single one of us who drives a car, truck or bus that is powered by petroleum. I think I am doing my part. I recycle. I drive very little, less than 8,000 miles a year, even with all my traveling. I eat local, organic food. I minimize my footprint. However, I realize none of this is enough as long as I am contributing to the need for offshore oil drilling or any kind of oil drilling. Now that I have been jarred out of my complacence, I plan to buy an all-electric car as soon as possible. Hello, they have been available for some time. And, don’t believe the propaganda about batteries not being good enough yet. I highly recommend the documentary film, “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It is an eye-opener.

For weeks now I have been inundated with Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill press releases from the environmental organizations to which I subscribe. I have been listening every day on NPR for blow-by-blow updates on the unfolding tragedy. If you want to make yourself sick, do an internet search on the BP Oil Spill and read the articles and comments. I feel I may have something to say about this maritime Chernobyl, but frankly I have not been sure what to add to the maelstrom, other than the idea that every one of us who uses petroleum is part of the problem and partly responsible. Here’s a timeline of the bizarre developments in this Century’s largest environmental catastrophe:

Wacky Timeline Of An Oil Drilling Maritime Chernobyl

April 20, 2010: Environmental Defense Fund issued a press release outlining how damaged ocean ecosystems are and how only 25 percent of U.S. Fisheries will be able to continue. The majority of all fishing communities are already on the brink of collapse. Catch shares, a method of regulating fishing and stabilizing the 50 fish stocks that are threatened has been working and could be expanded with introduction to Congress. Read More >>

April 20, 2010: two days before Earth Day, the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling platform located 40 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast suffered a catastrophic explosion that caused the oil drilling platform to sink. Nearly a mile below the Gulf of Mexico water’s surface an oil gusher started with an oil well blowout. Eleven oil drilling rig workers are missing and considered dead, while 17 others were injured. In Depth Summary >>

April 21, 2010: National Public Radio later said that President Barack Obama held an emergency White House meeting about the BP Oil Spill disaster.

April 22, 2010: Earth Day: Celebrations worldwide mark the 40th Anniversary of the day that commemorates environmental awareness. Much of this year’s focus is on the development of energy alternatives to petroleum and coal.

CNN Breaking Oil Spill News Story Titled: “Exploded Oil Rig Sinks! (DRILL! BABY! DRILL! HAPPY EARTH DAY!)”

April 23: The New York Times and other major media first reported the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill catastrophe three days after it occurred. Treehugger blog in its BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet said the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill was reported on April 20 but does not identify who reported it. I can not find any reports before April 23 in the online versions of the major papers. If anyone finds it sooner, let me know which media.

April 30: The Nature Conservancy reported that the first wave of oil came ashore around noon, approximately 45 miles south of New Orleans on the Mississippi River Delta. The seas were running six to eight feet high and an abnormally high tide made it impossible for responders to employ the booms that would normally help to contain the oil slick.

An Environmental Defense Fund press release quoted an email from Paul Harrison, Senior Director for Rivers and Deltas, leader of EDF’s Coastal Louisiana restoration campaign for the last four years writing from the Gulf Coast, “News accounts can hardly do justice to the epic human and environmental tragedy that is unfolding…. It is especially sad that this catastrophe threatens the fishing communities of the Gulf that have become national leaders in transforming ocean fisheries to sustainability…. It appears that the oil slick will most directly devastate the salt marshes and the species that rely on them along the coast—including hundreds of migratory bird species that are nesting and breeding as we speak. This area also produces 50 percent of the nation’s wild shrimp crop, 35 percent of its blue claw crabs and 40 percent of its oysters. We are doing everything possible to coordinate with our colleagues at National Audubon, NWF, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Gulf Restoration Network, and others—as well as coastal community contacts—to monitor the extent of the damage and provide whatever support we can. For those interested in doing what you can to help go to the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana Website, where you can sign up to volunteer.

May 2: Greenpeace issued it’s new “Spill, Baby, Spill” bumper sticker to raise awareness and funding for oil spill cleanup support and to fight new oil drilling.

May 3: Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate and the Alaskan who added the phrase “Drill, Baby, Drill” to the language said that even though the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill is potentially the worst ever, it is no cause for giving up offshore drilling.

May 5: The Sierra Club’s new Executive Director Michael Brune reported on his visit to the Gulf Coast. He described oyster boats and crab nets sitting idle and out of work and the size of the spill reaching up to 76 miles from its source. “You can’t see this mess and not be angered by the impact BP has had on this entire region. Now BP is running an expensive public relations campaign in an attempt to mask the full extent of the damage in the Gulf and minimize their accountability…This disaster is a wakeup call. We need to stop the expansion of offshore drilling, immediately. We need to eliminate subsidies and giveaways to companies like BP, which had more than $5.5 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2010 alone. We need our leaders to deliver a plan to get us off of oil by promoting clean energy solutions that already exist, we just need the political will to implement them.”

May 7: Matter of Trust collected hair clippings from thousands of salons, barber shops, even pet groomers across the country, along with pantyhose and stockings — all to be used to help mop up the oil threatened wildlife and livelihoods in the oil’s path. Read More >>

May 8: The Sierra Club, fishing industry, shrimpers, and local leaders rally in Lafayette Square, New Orleans, Louisiana and call for BP disaster response and clean energy solutions. Read More >>

May 11: The U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate Natural Resources Committee held hearings on the environmental and economic impacts of the Deepwater Horizon BP offshore oil drilling disaster. Witnesses from BP America and Transocean Ltd. testified, along with fishing and tourism industry representatives and environmental scientists. Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced reforms to the Minerals Management Service, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling operations. Read More >>

May 12: The White House unveiled a legislative package to respond to the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill Disaster. The
 Sierra Club called for an oil drilling moratorium and a clean energy policy. Read More >>

May 13: The Big Oil Bailout Prevention Act was introduced by Senators Robert Menendez, Bill Nelson and Frank Lautenberg. It would raise the liability caps for oil companies from $75 million to $10 billion to help ensure that they pay the full costs of economic and environmental disasters caused by their negligence. Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) blocked the act by objecting to a voice vote on the measure. Read More and see the video >>

May 17: Rush Limbaugh blamed the Sierra Club for the Deepwater Horizon BP Gulf Oil Spill. He asked his listeners, “When do we ask the Sierra Club to pick up the tab for this leak?” and blamed “the greeniacs” for driving oil drilling offshore. Sierra Club supporters responded with outrage and donations to the Sierra Club. The response has been enough for the Sierra Club to launch a new fund-raising campaign in Rush Limbaugh’s name. The goal is to make Rush Limbaugh the Sierra Club’s top fund raiser.

The League of Conservation Voters sent out a press release called, “Dirty Politics Spilling Into The Gulf.” The press release said, “In 2009 alone, oil companies spent $154 million to lobby to perpetuate the oil addiction that led to the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.”

May 20: The Nature Conservancy issued a press release announcing a video made just before the oil came ashore. The video gave insight into the role marshes have in protecting valuable wetlands in the region. The press release also directs readers to the Nature Conservancy’s blog that will feature regular Oil Spill updates from an ecological standpoint.

May 24: National Public Radio reported that independent scientists estimated the amount of oil spilling daily could be as much as 10-20 times BP’s estimates of 5,000 barrels.

May 25: The Los Angeles Times reported that Sarah Palin accused President Barack Obama of a slow response to the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill because he had campaign support from oil companies. She questioned whether “there’s any connection there to President Obama taking so doggone long to get there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded that the oil companies do not consider Obama an ally, “We proposed a windfall profits tax when they jacked their oil prices up to charge more for gasoline.” Gibbs said, “My suggestion to Sarah Palin would be to get slightly more informed as to what’s going on in and around oil drilling in this country.” The oil and gas industry donated $2.4 million to Sarah Palin’s running mate, John McCain, in the 2008 election, and $900,000 to Barack Obama, said the Center for Responsive Politics.

The U. S. Inspector General’s investigation of the Minerals Management Service that was overseeing offshore oil drilling said that MMS staff members “accepted tickets to sporting events, lunches and other gifts from oil and gas companies and used government computers to view pornography…. An inspector for the Minerals Management Service admitted using crystal methamphetamine…at work. The report cites a variety of violations of federal regulations and ethics rules at the agency’s Louisiana office.” Read More >>

The Wall Street Journal reported, “BP Decisions Set Stage for Disaster.” While the well was in progress it threw up many challenges to BP, “swallowing expensive drilling fluid and burping out dangerous gas. Those woes put the Gulf of Mexico project over budget and behind schedule by April 20… BP made choices over the course of the project that rendered this well more vulnerable to the blowout…. BP for instance, cut short a procedure involving drilling fluid that is designed to detect gas in the well and remove it before it becomes a problem, according to documents belonging to BP and to the drilling rig’s owner and operator, Transocean Ltd. BP also skipped a quality test of the cement around the pipe—another buffer against gas—despite what BP now says were signs of problems with the cement job and despite a warning from cement contractor Halliburton Co. Once gas was rising, the design and procedures BP had chosen for the well likely gave this perilous gas an easier path up and out, say well-control experts. There was little keeping the gas from rushing up to the surface after workers, pushing to finish the job, removed a critical safeguard, the heavy drilling fluid known as “mud.” BP has admitted a possible “fundamental mistake” in concluding that it was safe to proceed with mud removal, according to a memo from two Congressmen released Tuesday night.

May 28: President Barack Obama’s 30-day moratorium on new oil drilling will expire. Arctic drilling is set to proceed. Read More >>

Deepwater Horizon and BP Accountability, By the Numbers

[From a Sierra Club press release. Courtesy of Progressive Media.]

$450 MILLION…The estimated total BP has spent so far to clean up its catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

$93 MILLION…BP’s daily profit during the first quarter of this year.

5…The approximate number of days of BP’s profits that would cover its total cleanup costs thus far.

11 percent…The percentage of Americans who hold a positive view of BP, according to a new poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

2 percent…The size of the current leak relative to what BP promised federal regulators it could handle in its drilling permit application.

260…The number of failure modes the supposedly “fail-safe” blowout preventer used on BP’s leaking Mississippi Canyon 252 well head.

6…The number of dead dolphins that have washed up along the Gulf Coast.

87…The number of dead sea turtles that have washed up along the Gulf coast.

6,414…The number of claims filed against BP so far, mostly from fishermen and others for lost wages.

400,000 pounds…The amount of hair collected and being sent to the Gulf to be used to soak up oil.  In response to the spontaneous, nationwide outpouring of hair, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration issued a fact sheet stating: “Recent reports of a need for hair are exaggerated and not helpful to the response effort.” Meanwhile BP may still attempt a widely-ridiculed “junk shot” using golf balls, old rope, and shredded tires to slow or stop the leaking oil.