A satirical look at the inadequacies of the concept of carbon offsetting.
'The weather really changed', says Eleanor Sam, plucking feathers from a goose. 'When we were children we wore thick fur. We don't wear clothes like that any more...'
Temperatures in Alaska are rising ten times faster than in the rest of the world. President George W. Bush is ignoring the warning signs about global warming; after pulling out of the Kyoto convention, he now wants to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Native Alaskans are divided: the Inupiat Eskimos want the jobs and the money that drilling would bring, but the Gwich'in Indians fear it will destroy their caribou. Alaska is rich in oil - but for every barrel shipped south, damage is done to the delicate balance of Arctic life.
'As documented thoughtfully in 'Baked Alaska', global warming is having significant, adverse impacts on Alaska's environment and indigenous peoples right now. These impacts are unquestionably measurable, costly, and a harbinger of the devastating impacts that global warming will have on the rest of the nation and world. It is important for everyone to see 'Baked Alaska', a wake up call for action on global warming.' Deborah L. Williams, Executive Director, Alaska Conservation Foundation
'The case study approach showing communities who are, right now, suffering from the consequences of global warming is very effective.' Jacqueline Fern, Lane Community College
'Provides cogent anecdotal and scientific evidence of the impact of the state's rising temperatures through a combination of interviews with tribal members, scientists, oil industry representatives and other citizens. Baked Alaska takes a compelling and objective look at an important issue that should garner interest from individuals beyond the state's boundaries. Recommended for junior high through adult audiences.' Todd Hannon, Educational Media Reviews Online
'Breathtaking scenery and real people with stories to tell highlight the issues of global warming, that balance of nature, and the environmental costs of our oil consumption. This balanced production would be useful to generate discussion in science and environmental studies classes.' School Library Journal
'Well produced, with excellent scenic footage and narration. [Baked Alaska] presents a documented explanation of the dilemma in order to comprehend the different community perspectives.' Library Journal
Armstrong, Franny (film director)
Armstrong, Franny (director of photography)
Armstrong, Franny (editor of moving image work)
Hutson, Frank (narrator)
Editors, Franny Armstrong [and 3 others]; music, Chris Brierley.
Distributor subjectsAmerican Studies; Anthropology; Arctic Studies; Atmosphere; Climate Change/Global Warming; Earth Science; Ecology; Energy; Environment; Environmental Ethics; Geography; Geology; Humanities; Indigenous Peoples; Native Americans; Natural Resources; Sustainability
Spring time in Alaska.Here the story of climate change - cause and effect is played out in America's last great wilderness. On one hand, George Bush is pressing hard to open up a Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
On the other, the burning of fossil fuels is a direct source of global warming. And rising temperatures are already affecting the Arctic people.
Eleanor Sam, village elder: The weather really changed. Every winter we have like mild weather.
Wilson Sam, village elder: When we were kids, it was cold. Wintertime it was really cold. When the weather was cold, dogs, some dogs used to freeze.
Eleanor Sam, village elder: Our parents used to have really warm gear. I remember my father my late father he had long caribou legging boots about this high and us children we all had fur clothes too. People don't use that kind of fur clothing that much anymore.
Winter temperatures here in the Alaskan interior have risen by 4 degrees centigrade since the '60s: that's ten times more quickly than the rest of the world.For the people of Huslia, climate change is not a distant threat. This remote native community is already seeing physical changes to their landscape.
Harold Vent: This whole place was all lakes. We used to paddle down with the canoe during the summer to get to our camp. We've got to carry our canoe now.It's all over. It's not only right here, it's the whole area.
Royd Mashaney, electrical engineer: If you fly around and do pay attention real close, you can see how the lakes are shrinking just by looking at the er, receding shoreline, cos the trees used to be on the edge of the lakes but now there's fields from the trees to the lake.
As the frozen ground beneath the lakes thaws, it's believed that the water simply drains away. The disappearing lakes are taking the wildlife with them - threatening the traditional way of life.
Harold Vent: We used to hunt round here muskrats and ducks and stuff - but now there's no water. There's just no fish. Nothing. Empty. It's just running out. Ever year it's just getting harder and harder to live up here.
Wilson Sam, village elder: Some of these good geese hunting spots they're not good no more. The lakes dried up.
The native people's observations are backed by scientists working at the University of Alaska in the main city of Fairbanks.Here, an international team of climate experts is led by Professor Gunter Weller.
Gunter Weller (Director, Centre for Global Change & Arctic System Research): As the climate warms, snow and ice melts, yah. So you have snow and ice melting, more solar radiation being absorbed. Greater heating, greater heating in effect melts more snow and so this positive feedback loop is actually one of the main features why we have an amplification of the climate in the high latitudes.
About 80% of Alaska is built on a layer of frozen ground up to half a mile thick: the permafrost. It hasn't melted since before the last ice age.But in the last thirty years this icy layer has warmed by about one and a half degrees centigrade, causing havoc as the ground beneath the city melts.
Prof. Gunter Weller (see above for title): And when that happens the house collapses and has to be abandoned eventually. This has happened along here in this neighbourhood all the time. And three or four houses which used to be here are no longer here because of this effect. But you can see how it has sagged in the middle there. And will continue to do so if more ice melts out. And eventually if it really gets very bad the house might have to be abandoned.
Vicky: See that piece of wood here? That's a shim. It's elevating that leg to make it kind of level here.
Jess: This we have to hold it like this. Cos if we want like 2 pints of water like, if we do it like that it'll like, go like that, we have to hold it up so it's level.
Repairing permafrost damage is costing Alaskans about $35 million dollars a year. New houses now come with adjustable legs.
Prof. Gunter Weller(see above for title):Unless we do something about the use of fossil fuel then the climate impacts will become worse and will be a real serious problem, that we will have to take care of one way or another. No I think we should take this very seriously.
The US government does not share this concern, having recently pulled out of the Kyoto agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.Alaska already produces a quarter of the country's oil and North America's largest field is here at Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope.
Oil field gvs and wildlife refuge gvs.Oil field gvs and wildlife refuge gvs. 95% of this area is already open for drilling. Now George Bush wants to open up the last 5%: the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Environmentalists call it 'America's Serengeti'. Oil lobbyists like Cam Toohey refer to it as ANWR.
Camden Toohey (Executive Director, Arctic Power, open ANWR lobbying coalition): We do offer a tremendous supply of domestic oil and we can produce it under the strictest environmental rules in the US and it's comes from an area that has been set aside for its oil and gas potential and it comes from an area that very few people are going to visit because of its remoteness and harsh environment.
The 19 million acre Wildlife Refuge is also home to 256 people - the Inupiat Eskimos of Kaktovik who subsist on the bears, seals, musk ox and three whales per season.
Jack Kayotuk: Yep, this is mighty fine tasting stuff. See we cut the blubber off, it's just too fat.
A local survey revealed that 80% of the population are in favour of the oil industry's plans.
Woman sitting at desk. Nora Jane BurnsVice Mayor, Kaktovik village: We'll get our school funding instead of being cut. We'll have money for the children so they can have better education. We have it good right now, but we need more, better teachers. We'll have better healthcare clinic over here. Mainly jobs for the young people.
Tax revenue from the exisiting oil fields currently pays for many local amenities - the industry brings jobs and wealth into an area which previously had little to offer its young people.
Jack Kayotuk: Yeah, I'd like to see oil drilling in ANWR. You know, I think it would be alright for Alaska and for this town also. Give us jobs that we all need. You know, get money to buy things we need. Everything costs so much.
The Arctic Refuge debate has sharply divided the Alaskan Native people. 200 hundred miles south of Kaktovik, the Gwitchins of Arctic Village are adamantly opposed to the new drilling.
Evon Peter,Chief, Arctic Village: We don't want drilling, we don't support it there because we have a very close and spiritual relationship with the caribou.
Sarah James, Director, Gwich'in Steering Committee: We're caribou people and er, our life is connected with our caribou way of life. Because it's our clothing, it's our story, it's our song, it's our dance, and it's our food and er, that's who we are.
Every year 130,000 of these North American reindeer converge on the coastal plains to calve.This is where Bush plans to drill for oil.
Kenneth Whitten (Caribou specialist, Formerly Alaska Dept of Fish & Game): There's really only one suitable area for calving that has a combination of low numbers of predators and good forage conditions during the time when the calves are born and that's the coastal plain of the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. If caribou were to be displaced from there they would undoubtedly be forced into areas where they'd have lower calf survival and higher death rates.
Camden Toohey(see above for title): No, there are no scientific studies that support that the herd is going to be hurt or that the herd has experienced any problem in the Prudhoe Bay area. Sure there is a shifting of where the herd walks and such, but it has not affected the number of animals nor the health of the herd.
Oil lobbyists provide videos of caribou grazing happily next to pipelines. But the Gwitchin believe their way of life is threatened.
Sarah James(see above for title): We think to protect the porcupine caribou birthplace will keep the caribou healthy, and in return it keep, it'll keep us healthy and connected to who we are.
Evon Peter,Chief, Arctic Village: We don't really see ourselves as separate, we're not looking down upon the land and animals and seeing it different from us. We are part of the system that exists up here.I think most people in the world maybe would consider the way we live out here full time camping or something. But even to us it's just the way we live and we're happy with that.
Edward Sam: Why do they want to come up here jeopardising the way of life of eskimos and indians? It's, it's not worth it. How do I feel about it? No oil drilling.
Kenneth Whitten(see above for title): I don't think there should be drilling in arctic wildlife refuge I think that the United States is a rich nation, with plenty of resources, and we don't have to go into our last wild places for more energy.
Evon Peter,Chief, Arctic Village: The politicians and leaders in the oil industry have talked with us and pretty much told us that if we decided to support their efforts of drilling in ANWR that we would benefit economically but that doesn't appeal to our people. We're not interested in money.
Customer: Is it four wheel drive all the time or does it shift in and out of four wheel drive?
Salesman:No, this is a full time four wheel system. It's like the, similar to the Audi Quad 84 system. Transfers power from front, back, left to right. Gives you 100% power to the tyre that has the most traction.
Every Alaskan citizen receives a yearly dividend from the oil profits. Last year it was almost 2000 dollars. Most are in favour of plans to start drilling in the refuge.
Man at gas station: Oh yeah, you betcha. Develop it.. It will, it will happen. Definitely.
Woman at gas station: I'm actually for ANWR. I think we should pump our own oil. We have it.. I don't think we shoujld get it from Iraq or Iran or wherever we get it from.
Man at gas station: It would bring more money. But still the wildlife. They're going to have to move them to somewhere else or another habitat or whatever. So, I'm against it actually. I'm a big supporter of going ahead and utilising all the natural resources that we have available to us.
Yhe average US citizen causes the emission of twice as much carbon dioxide as the average European.The American economy revolves around big cars - like these Sports Utility Vehicles - powered by cheap fuel.
Man at gas station: Until we either change our lifestyles or we come up with some other kind of source of energy, we're pretty much stuck with what we've got on hand and oil is what we've got on hand.
Prof. Gunter Weller(see above for title): If you produce the more energy efficient SUV like the one we're driving here now I have to admit we would in three years save as much energy as ANWR would ever produce.
The oil industry has brought prosperity to Alaska in terms of jobs, trade and cash. But every barrel of oil sent south and burned comes back to Alaska as damage to the delicate balance of Arctic life.
On Alaska's west coast, the village of Shishmaref sits on an island, just quarter of a mile wide. For seven months of the year the island is locked in by sea ice, frozen all the way to Russia. The Inupiat Eskimos who live here are at the sharp end of the Western world's dependence on fossil fuel.
Clifford Weyiouanna, village elder: The currents have changed, ice conditions have changed and the freeze up of the Chuckchi sea has really changed too. To where we used to freeze up last part of october, now we didn't freeze till around christmas time I believeThat ocean out there should be under normal conditions four feet thick. I went out the ocean ice was only one foot thick.
Howard Weyiouanna Snr, village elder: My mother she made me a pair of polar bear skin mocassins. This top is wolverine, this is reindeer hair and sealskin on the bottom.These are excellent for extremely cold weather like 80 below, 100 below zero. Your feet never get cold.
Life here isn't just adapted to the cold. It depends on the cold: the thick blanket of sea ice is the village's hunting ground. Without it there is little food.
Clifford Weyiouanna, village elder: While we're waiting for the shore ice to freeze up all the game is travelling east. We can't get out there. And it's affecting the susbsistence lifestyle of this community. Because last summer we covered thousands of miles by boats trying to get walrus. Nothing. Except one boat. found one walrus.
Harold Weyiouanna Snr: It's getting harder and harder each year, to er, for a subsistence way of life, specially when you've got to go further out, springtime after the break up, you burn a whole bunch of gas. It's getting harder and harder each year.
Simon Weyiouanna: Put the shell in there. Pull it on fire and then shoot.
With less sea ice to protect it, the village is becoming more and more vulnerable to the increasingly violent weather.
Robert Iyatunguk (Coordinator, Shishmaref Erosion Coalition): The storms are getting more frequent, the winds are getting stronger, the water is getting higher and it's noticeable to everybody in town you know, it just kind of scares you inside your body and it makes you wonder exactly when the big one will hit.
After a ferocious storm in 1997, three houses toppled into the ocean when the fragile ground beneath them gave way. Nine others were relocated by jacking them onto sledges and pulling them to higher ground.Over the last forty years the villagers estimate they've lost about 1500 feet.
Robert Iyatunguk (see above for title): we're like in a panic mode because of exactly how much ground we're losing. If our airport, our runway gets flooded out - eaten away - there goes our evacuation by plane.
Relocating the whole village is forecast to cost about $50 million. Talks are under way. Meanwhile, the villagers sit and wait for the storm that will destroy their island.
Robert Iyatunguk (see above for title):I'd hate to be here when it hits, but yet if my kids are here, I'm going to have to force to stay here with my kids. We can't predict these storms. We can't tell what's going to happen tomorrow in other words. We just take it day by day here.
Distributor: Bullfrog Films
Length: 26 minutes
Grade: 7-12, College, Adult
Closed Captioning: Available
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