A book big enough to make waves

  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A photographic Journey

  Northern Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is a big place with big oil reserves. And now it has a big photographic book that explores the collision of conservation and development there — a book that has created quite a stir in Washington, D.C.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land, A Photographic Journey, is by Subhankar Banerjee, a former physicist at New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratories. With his photographic debut, the 34-year-old Seattle resident bit deeply into ripe terrain at precisely the right moment. Oil drilling in the refuge is a centerpiece of the Bush administration’s energy plan, and Banerjee’s photographs have provided ammunition to drilling opponents, such as former president Jimmy Carter, wildlife biologist George B. Schaller and writers Peter Mathiessen and Terry Tempest Williams, all of whom contributed essays to the book.

Among the glut of photographic books with the "love and protect this beautiful place" message, this one boasts more than the essential, albeit predictable, images of charismatic megafauna and wild vistas. The book gives the lie to the pro-oil political pundits who have depicted ANWR as a white wasteland.

Apparently, the book’s message is too powerful for some: The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History moved an exhibit of Banerjee’s photos, originally planned for the main floor rotunda, to a room on a lower level. Banerjee claims the museum was pressured to bump the exhibit by pro-oil interests in Congress, who recently lost a vote in the Senate which would have allowed drilling in ANWR (HCN, 4/14/03: Grassroots prevail in ANWR and Wyoming).

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land

by Subhankar Banerjee

The Mountaineers Books, Seattle, WA, 2003

176 pages, Softcover, $22.95

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