Story at a glance

  • The Arctic Refuge Campaign offers participants an immersive journey into the natural ecosystem of north Alaskan regions.
  • The exhibit is premiering in multiple cities.
  • The exhibit is timed to be a response to Department of Interior announcements of leases available to oil and gas companies along the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Proponents of drilling tout job creation, while opponents cite environmental concerns.

For many people, a visit to the Arctic is a bucket-list trip they may never get to make, but The Wilderness Society is making it available without the plane fare at Washington D.C.’s Union Market. 

An immersive campaign called “The Arctic Refuge Experience” transports participants to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The campaign will move from city to city in a bid to raise awareness about the beauty of the Arctic ecosystem, and how it could be disrupted with increased oil drilling. 

In collaboration with the Gwich’in Steering Committee and the Arctic Refuge Defense Campaign, The Arctic Refuge Experience takes viewers through several rooms depicting life in the Arctic. As a DCist report describes it, the first is a Northern Lights room, where viewers meet the indigenous Gwich’in people. In the next room, participants watch as the native flora and fauna come to life in a simulated Arctic tundra. 

The exhibit is touring as the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announces leases that will be available for the Coastal Plain Oil and Gas Leasing Program. A statement from the DOI states that the area for potential drilling comprises 400,000 acres along the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

This territory has been hotly contested since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act outlining new energy leasing provisions in 2017. Proponents voiced support for oil and gas drilling efforts to create jobs and reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil. 

Opponents argue that it will endanger native animals such as polar bears and caribou, the latter being a staple in the diet of the indigenous Gwich’in peoples. Additionally, some outlets report the Arctic is heating up faster than most other regions, making it particularly vulnerable to the increased greenhouse gases associated with drilling. 

Published on Dec 02, 2019