The battle for the Frozen North: Point Hope (video)

Posted by bex — 7 December 2011 at 1:45pm - Comments

The small Alaskan community of Point Hope - or Tikiġaq, as the Iñupiaq people call their homeland - is one of the oldest continually occupied sites in North America.

The Iñupiaq settled here some 2,400 years ago and, since then, have depended on subsistence hunting of Arctic mammals - including seal, caribou and bowhead whale - for their survival.

But life there may be about to change. Next year, Shell hopes to start drilling in the Chukchi Sea just north of Point Hope, threatening not only the region's oceans and wildlife, but also the Iñupiaq's culture and food supply.

Caroline Canon, featured in this video by Will Rose and Kajsa Sjölander of 70°, is among those challenging the conditional approval of Shell’s exploration plan - backed by a group of 12 environmental organisations including Greenpeace. (The others interviewed are Steve Oomittuk, Point Hope City Mayor, and Lydia Nashookpuk, Point Hope resident.)

And, tellingly, a couple of weeks ago, voters in the North Slope Borough mayoral elections - a vast area encompassing the coastline where Shell plans to drill next year - swung behind the mayoral candidate who opposes offshore drilling, Charlotte Brower. She beat former Shell employee George Ahmaogak in a tense run off battle, in which the defining issue was offshore drilling.

As the battle for the Arctic gets under way, you can do your bit too. Right now, the UK is lobbying to water down new European proposals which would ensure that oil companies, like Shell, have to meet tough new standards when they operate in fragile areas like the Arctic. Ask David Cameron to use his influence to help protect the Arctic.

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