Oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge seems to be the current showdown issue for the environmental movement. Now, some of the movement’s top gunslinging writers, including Rick Bass, are stepping forward in defense of the refuge and its inhabitants.
In his latest
book, Caribou Rising, Bass shreds the argument
for oil development while paying homage to one of the last
indigenous cultures in North America, the Gwich-’in Indians
who survive on the Refuge’s caribou herd. With his
distinctive spirit — and with stinging attacks — Bass
takes on Alaskan Gov. Frank Murkowski, R, President George Bush,
Vice President Dick Cheney and the waffling U.S. Senate.
Readers will find two elements in Caribou Rising that mark an
important step in Bass’s writing: first, the focus on people,
and second, his return to the topic of oil, after years of focus on
Montana’s Yaak Valley. As Bass pays a short visit to Arctic
Village, a Gwich-’in town displaying all the turmoil and
splendor of American Indian life, he struggles to describe and
defend its inhabitants and their complex relationship with the wild
Arctic. Unlike many of his and the environmental movement’s
past books, Caribou Risingis mostly about
standing up for the people and their right to a traditional
When Bass takes on the oil barons seeking to
open the refuge to drilling, he knows what he is up against: Bass
was once an oilman himself. What better defender of the refuge than
a man who knows firsthand the mindset and rationalizations of those
who want to exploit it?
is not meant to be a smooth, refined literary achievement. This
short book reads more like a war correspondent’s field
journal: fast-moving, pungent, but with heart and soul laid bare.
Bass is sending us quips and quotes from the front lines of an
environmental war, and we all benefit from his dispatches.
Showdown over the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and its people
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