BOOKS: Caribou Rising

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2006:

Caribou Rising by Rick Bass
Sierra Club Books (85 Second Street, San , CA 944105), 2004.
164 pages, hard cover. $19.95.

Rick Bass is a hunter. He sees the natural world through the
crosshairs, but considers himself an ethical hunter, as opposed to a
slob hunter, because he measures the success of a hunt by his
“quality of experience,” rather than by the volume of dead meat he
recovers. He thereby considers himself a conservationist, though
the relationship of hunting fraternity notions of fair chase to
protecting biodiversity is at best indirect.
On a hunting trip to Alaska, Bass finds an indigenous native
American community, the Gwich’in, living off a herd of caribou
whose numbers have fallen from nearly 200,000 to about 129,000 in
recent years.

Bass’s book about the Gwich’in and the caribou aims to raise
awareness of the damage which might be done to the Artic National
Wildlife Refuge by oil extraction as proposed by the George W. Bush
administration. Bass argues that the impact of oil extraction in
such a fragile wilderness would have a devastating effect upon
caribou numbers, to the detriment of the culture and survival of the
Gwich’in.
Few Animal People readers would argue against Bass’s plea to
preserve the Arctic refuge, or against his argument that sensible
measures to minimize oil consumption could save many times the
existing oil reserves in Alaska, which in all would satisfy American
consumption for no more than six months.

et, though Bass objects to ruthless exploiting the refuge’s
mineral resources, he sees nothing wrong with ruthlessly exploiting
the wildlife. His argument boils down to wanting to prevent the oil
barons from brutally plundering the finite mineral resources so that
he and the Gwich’in can continue to brutally plunder the declining
caribou herds.
–Chris Mercer

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