By Dan Ritzman
Many years ago I was sitting at Caribou Pass on the Kongukut River, in the Northeast corner of Alaska, hoping that I might see some caribou. I was not alone. along with the guests that I had on my trip there was a professional photographer Gary Braasch, who was also there waiting. I understand waiting is one of the great skills that a photographer must posess. I had not met him before but two days and about 20,000 caribou later we had struck up a bit of a friendship.
Shortly after his time photographing in the Arctic Refuge, Gary launched an incredibly ambitious project to capture images of global warming that would inspire people to take action. This is no easy task, with 24 hour news stations and the internet constantly bombarding us with images it is very difficult to produce something that is iconic. And global warming is such “big” issue that just deciding where to point your camera could keep an average guy up at night. But Gary has held true to his vision and has been working on this project ever since. Our paths have crossed on and off over the years as I have continued in my conservation advocacy work and Gary continues to take pictures that matter.
Just this past week Gary published pictures of Shell’s drill rig the Kulluk anchored just 12 miles offshore of the coast of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. These pictures bring home the impact that Arctic drilling will have on the landscape and the wildlife in this treasured area. These pictures are especially motivating to me beacuse this past summer I floated the Canning River all the way from the heart of the Brooks Range mountains across the coastal plain and right up to the edge of the Arctic Ocean. On that trip I saw moose, river otters, wolves, Gyr and Perigrine falcons, and tens of thousands of caribou. If I were to do that trip today, for the last half of the trip, every time I looked North, down river, I would have seen the drill rig looming out in the ocean. This is unacceptable and why I’m doing everything I can to convince the Obama Administration not to allow drilling in our Arctic Ocean and to permanently protect the treasured landscapes of America’s Arctic. You can join me in these efforts by “liking” the Sierra Club’s Chill The Drills Campaign on facebook or by signing the petition urging the Obama administration to stop the drilling.
If you just look at the top half of Gary’s image you can see the beauty of the Arctic Refuge, but when you look at the whole picture you can clearly see why we need to make a stand and take action.