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Gary Braasch
Photographer & Journalist
PO Box 1465
Portland, OR 97207 USA
Phone: 503.860.1228

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Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands becomes Royal Dutch Shell's staging area for oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer — Polar Pioneer is tugged in from Seattle and a strong protest banner briefly appears in Unalaska.


The 300 foot high floating oil rig that Royal Dutch Shell intends to install in the Arctic Ocean's Chukchi Sea this summer arrived in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska Is, Alaska, early on June 27, 2015. Pulled by two ocean-going tugs, the huge machine appeared off Unalaska Island in the pre-dawn, 13 days after it left Seattle WA. The Polar Pioneer now floats well off the Dutch Harbor airport in front of the steep mountains of Unalaska, the volcanoes like Mt Makushin that make up these islands. Strong winds formed lenticular clouds over the peaks in the dawn light Saturday, and strong winds for several days required an attendant tug to keep the unpowered rig in place. By June 30, the rig had been moved farther from Dutch Harbor proper and was anchored in Broad Bay, closer to Eider Point and Makushin Valley.

shell rig

In contrast to the active protests, “kayaktivist” flotillas and native American opposition in Puget Sound, there were no apparent protestors at the arrival in the Aleutian Islands. However, the next day signs briefly appeared on a stack of crab pots along the shore facing two Shell oil service boats in the harbor, reading “ Fish Yes. Shell No.” The “Shell No” was almost immediately ripped down, according to those who saw the signs; the “Fish Yes” sign remains (see below). People in Unalaska reveal a wide range of opinions about Shell’s operations here, from full support because of money it brings in and the “need for oil,” to impassioned opposition. Unalaska’s long time economic base is fishing, crabbing and fish processing which employ about 4000 people.

shell rig

Other ships in Shell's fleet are already gathering at Dutch Harbor to await the final permits which the company needs from the US Government to proceed. Ships in the harbor include the tug and service ship Aiviq; oil spill response vessel Fennica (with an Arctic capping stack hanging at its stern); oil service and spill response boats like the red Ross Chouest and the Nordica. Other ships have arrived at Homer in SW Alaska. Shell said it may have more than 25 vessels along with two drill rigs in the Chukchi — which is almost a thousand miles farther north from the Aleutians through the Bering Strait.

shell rig

Meanwhile in Washington DC, environmental groups represented by Earthjustice lodged a complaint with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that Shell’s tentatively approved drilling plan violates "an explicit condition” of the 2013 governing regulations allowing companies to disturb walruses, seals and other animals in the region. The groups say the regs require drill rigs to be at least 15 miles apart, but that Shell’s planned locations are only 9 miles distant. Resolving this, which could hold up the issuance of a Federal permit to disturb marine mammals, is among the last items Shell needs to begin drilling.

More from Alaska and Dutch Harbor here. Previous coverage of Shell’s Arctic drilling attempt and its opposition is here and here. Support for coverage in Alaska is provided by the Alaska Wilderness League.

fish yes

Update June 29: The person in Unalaska who mounted the “Fish Yes! Shell No!” banners along the waterfront after the Polar Pioneer arrived, is Suzi Golodoff, a 40-year resident, widow of a native Aleut and author of the book Wildflowers of Unalaska. She said making the public statement was “a natural thing to do” as a citizen, and said the arrival of Shell’s flotilla of at least 10 ships was “like an invasion” of the local community’s fishing grounds. “This is a fishing town,” she said, not an oil town. Golodoff issued a statement through her nephew Kurtis Dengler:

"This planet, and the Bering Sea in particular, has been so good to me, that I feel a loyalty to make a stand against human greed and foolishness. That's why I for one am opposed to Shell. Look back and ask, since when does offshore drilling and Big Oil go along with healthy renewable fish stocks in Alaska? We are at the mercy of Big Oil, complicit government (local and otherwise) and money mongers, who keep us addicted to oil, hindering the choices we have, but we DO have choices. The technology is out there for endless alternative energy, and many countries, cities, communities and individuals are making the change.

"Let's stand together against drilling in the Arctic, let's protect our fishing grounds, support our coastal communities up North, and make wise for decisions for once about this Earth that we live on."

"The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile
of filth,” warns Pope Francis. “Bring the whole human family together,” he urges, “redefine our notion of progress, move forward in a bold cultural revolution."

Dawn over Amazon

With words that read in many places as a textbook of ecology and economics, using phrases that often ring with spiritual power, Pope Francis calls on all people to cease despoiling the Earth, stop human-made climate change, care much more for poor and indigenous cultures, and begin “redefining our notion of progress.”

New Delhi dawn

In detailed exposition as well as direct statements in an Encyclical issued June 18, the Pope urges us to change our ways now:

• "We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now."
• "It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress.”
• “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone….This calls into serious question the unjust habits of a part of humanity."
• "What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis.".
• "Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility.”

pre-schoolers in Tovalu

Far more than what some thought would be only a direct statement about fighting climate change, the 182-page Encyclical Letter ranges across ecology, economics, science, sociology, history, urbanization, technology, world politics, ethics and theology and, of course, the beliefs of Catholicism. The Pope warns of damage not only to the climate systems, but also to ecosystems, water, and human social networks. He urges not only deeper personal responsibility but also “one world with a common plan,” writing that "a global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral actions on the part of individual countries.”


In the Encyclical, entitled “Praise Be … On Care for Our Common Home," Francies criticizes "wasteful and consumerist” industrial development, and quotes from the Rio Declaration of 1992 that the protection of the environment is “an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.” "We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics,” he writes, "in the service of a more integral and integrating vision.”

Colorado rainbow

This papal letter sent to all bishops of the Roman Catholic Church but expected to be widely read and influential because of its subject, comes during a year of increased expectation of international action to limit global warming emissions. Frances details the science and technologies involved in understanding, causing and reducing climate change: "The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all,” is one of his first statements. "We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay,” he writes. “The emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy. Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy.”

St. Francis

Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, and is the first Pope named after the saint. In his early life the Pope was a chemical technician, running tests in a food laboratory. Before becoming a Jesuit priest in 1960, he also worked as a bouncer and janitor. "I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically,” writes Francis. "He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast…”

Peru farmers

The Pope’s call for environmental, economic and social action will be heralded by many world leaders and used as encouragement to action for governments, including in the United States where some conservative leaders who oppose climate change action and defend freer business economics are Roman Catholics. Also likely to be controversial is Francis’s sidestepping of population limitation as a cause of some environmental problems: "To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption.”


Rich information and interpretation of the Encyclical may be found at the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. Additional coverage and analysis is in the NY Times, here and here.



nepal people

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"Climate Change, Our Personal Challenge” Photography Presentation by Gary Braasch


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15 years of World View of Global Warming, documenting climate change 1999-2015


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This project would be impossible without scientists and observers around the world who have provided hundreds of scientific contacts and papers. See Background, Advisors, and Reference for documentation, funders and major advisors, without whom I could not complete the work.

World View of Global Warming is a project of the Blue Earth Alliance, Seattle Washington, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. The project is supported entirely by donations, grants, and license fees for the photographs. Please see information about how to contribute.

For other information about Gary Braasch's climate change projects and books, please see the books Earth Under Fire and How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate, and the exhibit "Climate Change in Our World" at the Books and Exhibits link on the top menu of this page.


Photography and text Copyright © 2005 - 2015 (and before) Gary Braasch All rights reserved. Use of photographs in any manner without permission is prohibited by US copyright law. Photography is available for license to publications and other uses. Please contact requestinformation@worldviewofglobalwarming.org. View more of Gary Braasch's photography here.