Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alaska Action

Fresh off our most recent discussion (and what a handsome group of discussants!) of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, Amnesty International has joined with Defenders of Wildlife to urge the Obama administration to rescind offshore drilling leases in the Chukchi Sea:

The people of Alaska's Inupiat Eskimo communities have lived in relative harmony with nature for centuries. Their hardscrabble existence is dependent on hunting and fishing. It's how they support their families.

The Inupiat way of life - and the delicate balance of nature that supports it - could soon fall victim to the same sort of offshore drilling disaster now occurring in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shell Oil wants to make millions of dollars from these pristine waters. But there's a cost to that greed.

A spill in the Chukchi - even the day-to-day damage done by offshore oil drilling operations in these waters - could spell disaster for the people, polar bears, whales and other wildlife that rely on the Chukchi to survive.
The Inupiat lead a subsistence lifestyle that depends on their ability to hunt bowhead whales, walrus, seals, beluga whales, polar bears, birds, and fish, all of which depend upon the health of the Chukchi Sea ecosystem.

Shell's drilling plans could decimate Chukchi ecosystems - and the communities that rely upon them to survive.

Any day now Shell will start to send ships up to the Chukchi. Under the oil company's plan, huge 514-foot-long drill ship and an armada of support vessels and aircraft would patrol the waters of the icy Arctic Ocean -- generating industrial noise, and emitting tons of heat-trapping gases and both air water pollutants.

The catastrophic oil spill that is devastating the Louisiana Gulf Coast right now is truly a call to action. As we send this out to you the horror of the Gulf disaster is spreading and oil is decimating fisheries and dependent communities. We need to make sure that the same does not happen to the Inupiate people of Alaska.

The last time a disaster of such proportions hit Alaska was the Exxon-Valdez spill in 1989. To this day, human and wildlife communities have not fully recovered.

Thirty years later, there's still no effective, proven technology to clean up oil spills in broken sea ice conditions, such as those found in the Chukchi Sea - that means an oil spill could doom rare arctic whales, threatened polar bears and other wildlife to extinction and destroy Inupiat communities if drilling proceeds.

The Inupiat communities -- like the wildlife of the Chukchi Sea -- are unique and irreplaceable. Please take action today to protect them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

For September: Don't Sleep, There are Snakes

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle (Vintage Departures)For September, we have selected Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel Everett: 
A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil.

Daniel Everett arrived among the Pirahã with his wife and three young children hoping to convert the tribe to Christianity. Everett quickly became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications. The Pirahã have no counting system, no fixed terms for color, no concept of war, and no personal property. Everett was so impressed with their peaceful way of life that he eventually lost faith in the God he'd hoped to introduce to them, and instead devoted his life to the science of linguistics. Part passionate memoir, part scientific exploration, Everett's life-changing tale is riveting look into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Our May Author: William L. Iggiagruk Hensley

Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real PeopleThis month we read Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People by William L. Iggiagruk Hensley.  As usual we have a few links to supplement our up-coming discussion. The author has his own website where you can find additional photos and a blog of links to events, reviews, interviews and other writing such as this NYT Op-ed, In Alaska, Qiviters Never Win, published at the time of Sarah Palin's resignation as governor of Alaska or this remembrance of Stewart Udall.  You may also wish to browse the website of the First Alaskans Institute, where he is chair of the board of trustees. Hensley participates in an interesting discussion spurred by the 50th anniversary of Alaskan statehood at NPR's On Point.

Here is a brief interview with Audubon magazine: 

Also of general interest is this recent NPR report on Rosetta Stone's efforts to aid Native Alaskan's in saving Inupiaq.  And remember that film from Inuit film from a few years back, The Fast Runner?  Apparently it's part of a trilogy which I plan to investigate, especially the last, Before Tomorrow, in the series (trailer) which the NYT describes as "the only film in this series to focus on women’s roles as storytellers and repositories of folk wisdom; its perspective might be described as Inuit feminist." The makers of the film have created an Inuit and Indigenous multimedia forum, IsumaTV, which includes videos exploring indigenous languages, Inuits and climate change and native justice issues.  It looks like a fun place to browse and expand your worldview! 

Mr. Hensley has kindly dropped by this blog once already (thanks!), so who knows, he may be back in comments with his own favorite links...

Monday, May 03, 2010

For August: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage)For August, our mystery month, we have selected The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson:
Part blistering espionage thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposé on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel.

Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past. 
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