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The Refuge

  • Fred Vigeant
A polar bear just outside Kaktovik, Alaska.

 Nick Mott

A polar bear just outside Kaktovik, Alaska.

Friday’s through July, WITF presents a four part series The Refuge Friday at 9:00am in place of Smart Talk.

The Refuge takes a deep dive into the controversy over drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with a particular focus on potential impacts on the Indigenous communities that live in and near the refuge. This four-part documentary series formatted to the public radio hour comes to you from the award-winning podcast and public radio show, Threshold.

July 10 – Episode 1 – Sibling Rivalry – We take you to the refuge to track down the origin story of the conflict and follow that conflict through the decades. We also spend time in Kaktovik, Alaska, the only town within the boundaries of the refuge. Now that drilling has been approved by Congress, it could mean people here someday have oil rigs right next door. But it could also mean this small town is suddenly awash in cash.

July 17 – Episode 2: Atauchikun – We continue our reporting from Kaktovik, Alaska, the only town within the boundaries of the refuge, and an area that may have more to lose—and more to gain—than any other community in the country. The more we listened to people who live there, the more we realized: the heart of the issue isn’t just over oil extraction and development, wilderness and wildlife. Whatever side people take, their focus is on their community, their sovereignty, and their survival.

July 24 – Episode 3: Do It In a Good Way – We introduce listeners to the Gwich’in, an Indigenous group that has lived and hunted in the refuge long before it was carved out as protected federal land. Their health and culture depend on the Porcupine caribou herd, which calves on the same area of the coastal plain slated for drilling. We report from the Gwich’in town of Arctic Village, located just over the southern boundary of the refuge. There, we hear from people about what’s at stake for them as development looms farther north.

July 31 – Episode 4: Path Dependence – We explore the contradictions and tensions at the heart of the drilling debate— especially as they relate to climate change. We explore how oil development on the coastal plain and global warming came onto the national scene in the 1980s, and hear from the oil industry on what’s at stake for them as a lease sale inches ever closer


About Threshold: podcasts tackle one pressing environmental issue each season. We report the story where it’s happening through a range of voices and perspectives. Our show is a home for rigorous, in-depth journalism and nuanced conversation about human relationships with the natural world.

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