To Drill or Not to Drill, That Is the Question
The Obama Administration, Shell, and the Fate of the Arctic Ocean
by Subhankar Banerjee, with introduction by Tom Engelhard of The Nation Institute, 3 March 2015

Beluga Whales with calves near Kasegaluk Lagoon along the Chukchi Sea coast, July 2006. About 4,000 beluga whales are known to calve along that lagoon.
On this day in early July, we saw nearly 1,000 whales with newborn calves within a one–mile stretch. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

Here’s a Jeopardy!–style question for you: “Eight different species of whales can be seen in these two American seas.” Unless you’re an Iñupiaq, a marine biologist, or an Arctic enthusiast like me, it’s a pretty good guess that you can’t tell me what those seas are or what those whales are either. The answer: the Chukchi Sea and the adjacent Beaufort Sea, off Arctic Alaska, and you can commonly spot bowhead, beluga, and grey whales there, while fin whales, minkes, humpbacks, killer whales, and narwhals are all venturing into these seas ever more often as the Arctic and its waters continue to warm rapidly.

The problem, however, is that the major oil company Royal Dutch Shell wants to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer and that could, in the long term, spell doom for one of the last great, relatively untouched oceanic environments on the planet. Let me explain why Shell’s drilling ambitions are so dangerous.


The article also got published in a number of other places: AlterNet | Asia Times | Common Dreams | Countercurrents | Energy Post | Global Possibilities | Guernica | Huffington Post | Juan Cole’s Informed Comment | Le Monde diplomatique | Moyers & Company | The Nation | Nation of Change | The Real News | Resilience | Salon | Truthdig | Truthout | Utne Reader | War in Context | YubaNet

To the Point | Public Radio International: On March 4, Subhankar did a radio interview with Warren Olney, host of To the Point, a nationally syndicated program on the Public Radio International. To listen online go down the page to the third segment, “Oil Companies Could Be a Nightmare for the Whales of the Arctic.” It’s about 10 minutes long. LISTEN ONLINE  

Rights of Nature—Exhibition & Conference

On 23 January 2015, the Nottingham Contemporary in the UK opened a major exhibition, Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas. The exhibition is curated by Dr. TJ Demos and Dr. Alex Farquharson, with Irene Aristizábal. The Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones selected Rights of Nature as the “Exhibition of the Week”. Eight of Subhankar Banerjee’s (founder of photographs of Arctic Alaska from the permanent collection of Lannan Foundation are included in the exhibition. On 24 January, the Nottingham Contemporary presented an international conference, Rights of Nature. Throughout the day there were many wonderful talks and spirited conversations. TJ Demos gave an expansive and critical overview; Subhankar spoke about the Arctic, while Brian Holmes took us to Argentina; Eriel Tchekwie Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told us about the devastation from tar sands extraction adjacent to her homeland in Alberta; Ursula Biemann took us to Ecuador, Elizabeth Peredo to Bolivia, Fernando Palma Rodríguez to Mexico, and Mabe Bethônico to Brazil—are just a few examples. You can view the entire conference on YouTube on two separate sessions [morning session | afternoon session]. Subhankar’s talk, “Rights of Nature—Says Who?” starts at 2:15:01 and ends at 2:40:39 of the morning session. He begins with a rift and ends with a mend.

The Rights of Nature international conference, Nottingham Contemporary, UK, 24 January 2015.
Subhankar’s lecture, “Rights of Nature—Says Who?” begins at 2:15:01 and ends at 2:40:39 (watch on YouTube).

President Obama Calls on Congress to Protect Arctic Refuge as Wilderness

On 25 January 2015, the U.S. Department of Interior released a Comprehensive Conservation Plan to “better sustain and manage” the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Furthermore, President Obama announced his “plans to ask Congress to designate the Coastal Plain and other core areas of the refuge as wilderness.” Following the announcement, the conservation community placed a full–page ad in The New York Times to thank the President, in which Subhankar is a signatory. For more information about the Arctic NWR, see his books, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land (Mountaineers Books, 2003), and Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point (Seven Stories Press, 2013). The Gwich’in Nation, the conservation community, and millions of people across the United States, are hoping that after all these years the Congress will heed the President’s call.

President Obama announcing his decision on 25 January 2015 (watch on YouTube).

Shell’s Arctic Ambition In Relation to President Obama’s Arctic Ocean Decision

On 27 January 2015, the White House announced that President Obama is withdrawing “9.8 million acres in the waters of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas” in Arctic Alaska from future oil and gas lease sales. The areas designated as off–limits by the President include the biologically rich Hanna Shoal in the Chukchi Sea. On January 29, Shell announced its intention to drill in the Chukchi Sea during the 2015 open–water season. The Real News Network (TRNN) Executive Producer Sharmini Peries did a two–part interview with Leah Donahey, Arctic Ocean Campaign Director at the Alaska Wilderness League, and Subhankar Banerjee. The part I (released on February 5) focuses on Shell’s announcement in relation to President’s decision. Shell still needs several permits from the Obama administration before it can return to the Chukchi Sea. The tribal Iñupiat community members and environmental organizations are urging the President to deny Shell those permits.

The Real News Network interview, part I (watch on YouTube).

In part II of the interview with Sharmini Peries, Leah Donahey and I discuss climate, conservation and exploitation in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the fact that the United States will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council this April and its significance.

The Real News Network interview, part II (watch on YouTube).


ClimateStoryTellers founder Subhankar Banerjee edited the anthology, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point (New York: Seven Stories Press; hardcover: 3 July 3, 2012; updated paperback: 22 October 2013).

The book includes writing by several ClimateStoryTellers contributors, including Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, Chie Sakakibara, and Christine Shearer.

Rich in the incredible diversity of animal life, the long human history of its indigenous peoples, and the vast reservoirs of oil, natural gas, and coal, the Arctic is the tipping point, the place where we will see the first glimpses of the future that awaits us, and also where great battles are now being fought that will determine whether our future will be that of survival or destruction, recovery from the brink or departures beyond the point of no return. The thirty–nine voices assembled in Arctic Voices […] attempts to change how we look at a part of our world that we now know so little about and with a new awareness will awaken our moral obligation to help its continued survival against industrial destruction and the greed of a few. After you have read Arctic Voices, Banerjee hopes, “You will begin to think and talk about the Arctic differently than you did before. And perhaps you’ll find an answer to the question, ‘Why should I care about the Arctic?’”—from Arctic Voices back cover.

In the Beautiful, Threatened North
By Ian Frazier
The New York Review of Books, Volume 60, Number 4, March 7, 2013
Frazier’s generous essay is a review of Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point.

Can Shell Be Stopped?—A Letter to the Editors
By Subhankar Banerjee
The New York Review of Books, Vol. 60, No. 10, June 6, 2013

Keep the Arctic Cold
By Subhankar Banerjee
Seven Stories Press, May 17, 2013


Destabilization of Arctic Sea Ice Would Be Game Over for Climate
by Subhankar Banerjee, September 27, 2013

Sea Ice, Beaufort Sea, Alaska, July 2002. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

The Arctic sea ice is the most famous visual indicator of climate change. This year the climate deniers took the lead to explain what’s going on with the Arctic sea ice. “And now it’s global COOLING! Record return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 60% in a year,” by David Rose in the Mail on Sunday, and “Global warming? No, actually we’re cooling, claim scientists” by Hayley Dixon in The Telegraph—both published on September 8—led the parade. Quoting all these irresponsible disinformation, on September 10, Greg Gutfeld of Fox News put an end to global warming with these words: “Global warming? Yes, it’s finally dead.”


Let Us Now Sing About the Warmed Earth
By Subhankar Banerjee, July 29, 2013

Exposed Coffin, Barter Island, along the Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska, August 2006. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

On July 25 the journal Nature published an article about the “Economic time bomb” that is slowly being detonated by Arctic warming. Gail Whiteman of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and Chris Hope and Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge suggest—based on economic modeling that the “release of methane from thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea” would come with an “average global price tag of $60 trillion.” The news should have sent a shock wave through the media. But instead, predictably, the public were encouraged to celebrate—again and again, and again—the birth of the royal son.


Walking the Waters
How to Bring the Major Oil Companies Ashore and Halt the Destruction of Our Oceans
By Subhankar Banerjee, August 2, 2012

Scientists from Dr. Stephen Brown’s research team are studying shorebirds, Beaufort Sea coast, Alaska, August 2006. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains. When it’s the desert, it’s the desert. When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.” Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters.


BPing the Arctic, Again — Fast Tracking Shell’s Dangerous Drilling
By Subhankar Banerjee, August 15, 2011

A rally against Arctic Ocean drilling, Washington, D.C., December 2011. Courtesy Alaska Wilderness League.

One of the riskiest and most destructive extreme energy oil exploration projects on the planet is moving toward implementation without scientific understanding or technical preparedness—Shell’s oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean of Alaska.


My journey into Kivalina v. ExxonMobil et al.
By Christine Shearer, December 1, 2010

Sandbags for protection of Kivalina shoreline, along the Chukchi Sea coast, Alaska, August 2008. Photograph by Christine Shearer.

In 2008, a small Inupiat village in Alaska sued ExxonMobil and 23 other fossil fuel companies including Peabody Energy and BP for contributing to the destruction of their homeland, and charged a smaller subset with deliberately creating a false debate around climate change science. You might have heard of the lawsuit—Kivalina v. ExxonMobil et al.


Shell’s Arctic Drilling Will Destroy Our Homeland and Culture
By Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, November 23, 2010

Community prayer after a bowhead whale hunt, Beaufort Sea coast, Kaktovik, Alaska, September 2001. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

This week families across the country will be celebrating Thanksgiving—sharing food and telling stories. Here is my story about our food and culture that would be destroyed if Shell Oil gets the permit to drill for oil in our homeland—the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.


BPing the Arctic?
Will the Obama Administration Allow Shell Oil To Do to the Arctic What BP did to the Gulf?
By Subhankar Banerjee, May 25, 2010

Polar Bear on Bernard Harbor, Beaufort Sea coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, June 2001. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

When you go to the mountains, you go to the mountains. When it’s the desert, it’s the desert. When it’s the ocean, though, we generally say that we’re going “to the beach.” Land is our element, not the waters of our world, and that is an unmistakable advantage for any oil company that wants to drill in pristine waters.



The Real News Network: Interviews | Panels | Debates
    Global Expansion of Fossil Fuel Transport, Drilling Underway as UN Climate Summit Approaches
    Subhankar Banerjee with Sharmini Peries, 4 September 2014 VIEW ONLINE  

    Debating the New EPA Rules for Carbon Emissions from Coal
    Subhankar Banerjee, Jeff Biggers, and Daphne Wysham; host Paul Jay and Jessica Desvarieux
    3 June 2014 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Debate: Is Obama Doing Enough to Fight Climate Change?
    Subhankar Banerjee and Daniel Weiss; host Jessica Desvarieux, 20 May 2014 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Panel: IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    Subhankar Banerjee and Joshua Howe; host Anton Woronczuk, 16 April 2014 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Interview: UN IPCC Report, Part I—Physical Science Basis
    Subhankar Banerjee with Jaisal Noor, 27 September 2013 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Interview: Why Climate Deniers Are Plain Wrong
    Subhankar Banerjee with Jaisal Noor, 27 September 2013 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Interview: Colorado’s Biblical Floods Linked To Climate Change
    Subhankar Banerjee with Jaisal Noor, 19 September 2013 VIEW ONLINE  

    TRNN Interview: Obama’s Climate Change Policies Are Imperialistic and Despotic
    Subhankar Banerjee with Jaisal Noor, 19 September 2013 VIEW ONLINE  

Looming Deadline Creates Window for Protests to Stop Shell’s Arctic Drilling
Subhankar Banerjee in conversation with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez
Democracy Now!, July 20, 2012

Dr. James Hansen with Subhankar Banerjee
Lannan Foundation lecture series In Pursuit of Cultural Freedom
Lensic Performing Arts Center, Santa Fe, February 20, 2013 (SOLD OUT)


Beautiful Sunsets (and Sunrises) in Art
by Subhankar Banerjee, 31 March 2014

Musk oxen in the haze of a toxic north, Canning River Delta, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska, 8 May 2001. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

Many people have, over the years, told me that I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But no one ever told me that I shouldn’t judge a sunset (or sunrise) by its beauty. After all these years, a group of scientists finally pulled the curtain off of the golden lights of dawn and dusk.

On March 25, the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal published an article that addresses pollution in art. Soon I’ll talk about that, but first a bit about the Arctic.


On Climate Impasse: Appetite and Substitutes
by Subhankar Banerjee, 27 March 2014

This piece is part II of a multi–part exploration on ‘climate impasse’. Most nation states are not interested in solving the climate crisis. This state of collective global inaction is what I call climate impasse. … In part I, I had discussed mass consumption that you can read here. Let us now move forward, with Progress. … For the purpose of interpreting the climate impasse, however, I’d frame Progress, not as a myth, but as a paradox. Progress is as real as an apple, and it can also hold contradictions.


Interpreting the Climate Impasse: A View from Indo–America
by Subhankar Banerjee, 26 February 2014

The two countries I know best are India and the US. I spent the first 22 years of my life in the former, and the following 24 in the latter, where I continue to live. Recently I returned home, after spending three months in India. The combination of what I saw there in plain view, and what I see here in America, may shed some light on—why we have arrived at the climate impasse.


Independence from Terror
By Subhankar Banerjee, July 4, 2013

Two recent disasters: one in Uttarakhand, India and the other in Arizona, US show us—that not only ecological devastation but also human casualty—arise from climate change. In both cases, those who tried to save lives—lost their lives. On June 25 an Indian air force helicopter crashed on a steep hillside in Uttarakhand “while on a mission to rescue people stranded in monsoon floods,” the Times of India reported. Twenty people died in that crash. And last Sunday nineteen firefighters died in Arizona “as they were overcome … by the swift, erratic Yarnell Hill Fire,” the USA Today reported.


Colorado’s Thousand–Year Flood
Repeated assaults culminate with epic floods in Colorado
By Subhankar Banerjee, September 16, 2013

In the last decade and a half Colorado (and its neighbor New Mexico) has gone through three major assaults—massive tree deaths, massive wildfires, and now massive floods—each in turn has been called “the worst natural disaster” the region has seen. Each in turn has also made the next one worse—millions of dead trees made the wildfires worse, and we are now learning that the wildfires are making the floods worse.


Boulder Flooding: Remembering Warnings from Weather Report
By Subhankar Banerjee, September 13, 2013

Weather Report did “deluge the populace with artwork” exhibited all across town in numerous venues and outdoors. I surmise that no one in Boulder had imagined then that the real “deluge” would arrive—so soon.


A Future Without Coal: In New Mexico Supreme Court, Again
By Mariel Nanasi, July 25, 2011

PNM’s San Juan Generating Station. Photograph by Erika Blumenfeld.

It’s time we secure a future without coal in New Mexico, across America, and around the world. It won’t be easy. Along the way, we will need a lot of help, creativity and inspiration.


News Update: In a July 28 front–page article “Enviros win voice in carbon battle,” in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan reports, “The New Mexico Supreme Court on Wednesday (July 27) cleared the way for environmental groups to intervene in an ongoing legal battle over whether the state should regulate greenhouse–gas emissions.” You can read the full article here.

India Must Free Binayak Sen Immediately
By Subhankar Banerjee, March 7, 2011

On January 20, 2011, over 150 survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster marched with lighted torches demanding immediate release of Dr. Binayak Sen.
Photo courtesy

India must unconditionally release Binayak Sen immediately and put an end to the great suffering that he and his wife have already endured since May 2007. Binayak Sen deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, not lifetime imprisonment as an enemy of India.


News Update: On April 15, 2011 the Supreme Court of India granted bail to Dr. Binayak Sen and dropped charges of sedition against him.

Climate Change and Agriculture
Biodiverse Ecological Farming is the Answer, not Genetic Engineering
By Dr. Vandana Shiva, February 23, 2011

Women for Diversity: One of the campaigns of Navdanya. Photo courtesy Navdanya.

Industrial globalised agriculture is heavily implicated in climate change. It contributes to the three major greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2) from the use of fossil fuels, nitrogen oxide (N2O) from the use of chemical fertilizers and methane (CH4) from factory farming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC), atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased from a pre–industrial concentration of about 280 parts per million to 379 parts per million in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of CH4 has increased from pre–industrial concentration of 715 parts per billion to 1774 parts per billion in 2005. The global atmospheric concentration of N2O, largely due to use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture, increased from about 270 parts per billion to 319 parts per billion in 2005.

Industrial agriculture is also more vulnerable to climate change which is intensifying droughts and floods. Monocultures lead to more frequent crop failure when rainfall does not come in time, or is too much or too little. Chemically fertilized soils have no capacity to withstand a drought. And cyclones and hurricanes make a food system dependent on long distance transport highly vulnerable to disruption.


Cancún Opens for GREEN Business But REDD Will Destroy Indigenous Forest Cultures
By Subhankar Banerjee, November 29, 2010

During UNFCC Convention in Bali indigenous people protested the fact that they were shut out from the negotiations even though
it is their land that UN was considering for carbon offsets. Courtesy Global Justice Ecology Project.

Is this the time to tinker with trading carbons by taking away the forests from the indigenous inhabitants and then selling the credits to the polluters—or is it possible to develop a common global vision of moving away from fossil fuel altogether and working with forest dwellers on sustainable solutions? It is a moral question that we must answer. And that I’d call trust–and–partnership.


STOP: Another One Hundred Years of Fossil–Digging in North America?
By Subhankar Banerjee, November 15, 2010

PROTECT: CARIBOU AND SALMON, Gwich’in Human Aerial–Art, Fort Yukon, Alaska, 2010. Courtesy Gwich’in Steering Committee.

Soon I’ll will tell you about five Godzilla–scale fossil–digging projects in North America that if approved will set us on a course to repeat our past with grave implications for the future of our planet. You may have already heard about some of these projects individually, but the urgency to stop them collectively is more than ever before.


From Beautiful Nudibranchs to Coral Graveyards
Marine Research in the Indian and Pacific Oceans
By Dr. Terry Gosliner, October 16, 2010

Bleached Corals, Coral Island, Phuket, Thailand, July 17, 2010. Photograph by Dr. Terry Gosliner.

For almost three decades I’ve been studying nudibranchs in the tropical Indian and Pacific Oceans. Nudibranchs are beautiful and brightly colored sea slugs that thrive on healthy coral reefs. While that has been exhilarating, it is the changes that I’ve seen on these reefs that make me sit upright in bed in the middle of the night. Climate change is seriously endangering these richest reservoirs of marine biodiversity. Here is my story of some of these alarming changes.


Youth Across North America Are Fighting For Their Future Climate
By Subhankar Banerjee, October 4, 2010

I recently urged young people to start a climate revolution in a post titled “Letter to Young Americans.” Here are some of the comments that were posted in the blogosphere1 | 2 in response to that post: “Your letter will be thrown into the marginalized bin and be lost forever. You’re asking for honesty and sincerity in the land of hypocrisy;” and “American college kids (and others their age) have other things on their minds –– like sports, drinking, i–pods, text–messaging, video games, TV, etc;” and “I’m a college freshman, and I, along with most other Americans, disagree with almost every tired idea you bring up in this article;” and “I’m not a ‘young American’, and, I don’t even go to college. But, I’ll go ahead and sink this stinky diatribe to the bottom of the briny depths.”

Not an auspicious beginning for a revolution, wouldn’t you say?

But the post also resulted in several emails in my inbox. Here are three stories from those emails about young people with a different perspective –– a teen rock band called One Eyed Rhyno from Sacramento, California; climate students from the North Cascades Institute in Sedrow–Woolley, Washington; and a bicyclist from the Yukon province in Canada.


Could This Be A Crime?
U.S. Climate Bill Is Dead While So Much Life On Our Earth Continues To Perish
By Subhankar Banerjee, August 26, 2010

Dead Piñon Where Birds Gather in Autumn | On my way to the powerline | 2009. Photograph by Subhankar Banerjee.

Imagine you live in New York City, and one fine morning you awake to the realization that 90 percent of all the buildings that were more than five stories tall have been destroyed. You will hardly have the words to talk about this devastation, but I’m sure you will walk around the rubble to make sense of it all.

Something similar has happened in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I currently live. Between 2001 and 2005, aerial surveys were conducted over 6.4 million acres of the state. Some 816,000 affected acres were mapped and it was found that during this short period Ips confusus, a tiny bark beetle, had killed 54.5 million of New Mexico’s state tree, the piñon. In many areas of northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe, Los Alamos, Española, and Taos, 90 percent of mature piñons are now dead.