The Next Generation of Explorers Protecting the Arctic
Explorers, artists, activists, and storytellers are coming together in support of The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Home to the greatest variety of plant and animal life in the circumpolar north, land of the indigenous Gwich’in and Inupiat people, and what some call the “last great reserve” of untapped oil in the US, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is under threat. Alaska has always been a special place for The North Face. In 1972, we sent our first fully supported expedition to the Brooks Range to protest a proposed pipeline in the area. We’ve been back countless times over the years, but now that it’s threatened again, we took a special trip. This summer, we sent a delegation of young activists, artists, creators, and storytellers to the region on the trip of a lifetime to experience the land and people connected to the Refuge and share stories with you.
The Arctic Refuge, home to 19.6 million acres of incredibly beautiful tundra and mountains, is an icon for explorers everywhere. It’s also land that is held sacred by the Gwich’in people, who are connected to Caribou as their main food source and way of life, as they have been for thousands of years. Other wildlife call this place home, including polar bears and over 200 species of migratory birds from every continent. This land is also ground zero for climate change; temperatures in the Arctic are rising at twice the rate of the rest of the planet. The Arctic has permafrost that stores huge amounts of carbon, releasing into the atmosphere as it melts.
Language to open the Arctic Refuge for oil development was included in the 2017 tax reform bill as a way to generate $1 billion in new revenue for the federal government to help in small part offset the $1.5 trillion tax package. This public land, owned equally by all Americans, has been protected for generations and has been mostly out of the spotlight for over a decade, with many young people growing up without knowing its legacy. A study conducted for The North Face by YPulse, a youth-focused research organization, found that 68% of Generation Z Americans are unaware of threats to the region.
In efforts to raise awareness about this issue with young Americans and others, six young creators, from a youtube comedian to a bronx-based oil painter, were paired with The North Face athlete and Arctic advocate Kit DesLauriers, on an expedition into the Refuge. For many of this group, it was an introduction to the outdoors and camping for the first time, far from home, in one of the most remote places left in the United States.
FROM THE EXPLORERS