Why we’re protecting the Arctic: Paul Nicklen

For the last 40 years, I’ve roamed the polar regions of our world. I started as a child, growing up in an Inuit community on Baffin Island, Canada, where I learned from the Inuit people not just to survive in our environment — but to thrive in and love the Arctic for all it had to offer.

Later, as a scientist, I tried using data to make the case for conservation. But it wasn’t until I became a polar photographer for Sea Legacy and National Geographic magazine that I finally found a way to convey the urgency of protecting this fragile ecosystem for the good of all humanity.

Photo by Paul Nicklen

Photo by Paul Nicklen

As a scientist, what I know about the Arctic is terrifying. Currently, it’s warming twice as fast as anywhere else on the planet. As a photographer, I can observe and document these effects first-hand: receding glaciers, struggling wildlife populations, and cities impacted by rising sea levels.

And as the landscape changes, driven by climate change, I am watching the Arctic region become increasingly vulnerable. In particular, we should see the rapid disappearance of sea ice here for what it is: a sign of imminent and catastrophic change. The danger of an oil spill would deliver a fatal blow to this pristine and critically important ecosystem.

But — with the leadership of President Obama — we’ve taken a step forward.

Yesterday, President Obama designated vast portions of the United States’ Arctic Ocean as indefinitely off limits for future oil and gas leasing.

The new withdrawal — which encompasses the entire U.S. Chukchi Sea and the vast majority of the U.S. Beaufort Sea — will provide critical protection for the unique and vibrant Arctic ecosystem, which is home to marine mammals and other vital ecological resources and marine species, and upon which many Alaska Native communities depend. With this action, we’ve now protected nearly 125 million acres in the Arctic from future oil and gas activity since 2015.

Photo by Paul Nicklen

Photo by Paul Nicklen

This action also comes in conjunction with Canada’s announcement that it will freeze offshore oil and gas leasing in its Arctic waters, to be reviewed every five years through a climate and marine science-based assessment.

My career as a scientist, photojournalist, and co-founder of SeaLegacy.org has taught me that merely telling people the ice is melting doesn’t work. Temperatures are rising. Animals are struggling, starving and drowning. Water levels are gradually immersing cities. We can no longer just talk about this. We need to show the world how urgent it is with images and stories and, more importantly, with urgent action.

At this pace the Arctic will be void of ice by 2050. It’s a message that’s hard to hear but easy to understand when you see the damage at the poles of this great Earth. Species whose survival is at serious risk, like the Pacific walrus, polar bear, bowhead whale, fin whale, spectacled eider, and Steller’s eider will benefit from these protections, and so will the communities that rely on the Arctic ecosystem for their way of life. I hope Sea Legacy’s photographs become ambassadors for this beautiful ecosystem and inspire immediate action to protect it.

Thank you to President Obama for having the foresight to step forward. Not back.

Thanks for hearing me,


Paul Nicklen
Wildlife Photojournalist
Nanoose Bay, British Columbia, Canada

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It’s no secret that 2016 has been, in many respects, a no-good-very-bad year for progress. Lucky for you, there’s a new year right around the corner, and 2017 is ripe with opportunities to forge progress and empower activists so we can lay the groundwork for a progressive resurgence in 2017 and beyond. Here are 7 ways that you can take matters into your own hands and make 2017 a better, more hopeful year (you can find more details here):
1. Get involved on the state and local level!

    2017 will see hundreds of gubernatorial, state legislator, and mayoral elections across the country. Local elected officials are closest to the people and are uniquely situated to drive progressive policies that affect your everyday lives.

2. Show Solidarity.

    Participate in movements across the country and in Washington D.C., such as the

Women’s March on Washington

    , to stand strong against the wave of hateful rhetoric that’s insulted and demonized many Americans, from women to immigrants to Muslims to LGBT people. And if you’re in D.C. for inauguration weekend, join Generation Progress Pushback for their #ResistTrump bootcamp on

January 20th


RSVP here


3. Keep Your Members of Congress on Speed Dial.

    You can make your voice heard to demand that your elected officials exercise oversight hold Trump accountable for his radical agenda. You can start by

calling, writing,

    or tweeting to your Senator to resist Trump’s cabinet picks, who need confirmation by a majority vote of the Senate, or to demand they look investigate Trump’s

dangerous, unprecedented, and unconstitutional conflicts of interest


4. Share your story.

    Are you one of the 20 million who would lose healthcare if the ACA is reapealed? Tell us what repealing the ACA would mean to you so the American people (read: congressional republicans) can see just how harmful repealing the law would be.

Share your story here


5. See something, hear something, read something? Say something.

    2017 is a crucial time to step up your social justice game. Speak out when you hear racism/Islamophobia/sexism/
    homophobia (yes that includes

confronting your family

    and friends.) Donate to groups doing important work (





Planned Parenthood

    , etc). Join groups like

Standing Up for Racial Justice

    . Whatever you do, stay informed and

speak out

    when you see injustice.

6. Fact Check Everything.

    As we enter 2017, stopping the spread of


    (remember how


    it can turn out to be) will be more critical than ever. So, take an extra second to check the sources. Read. Re-read. And read again. Vigilance is the name of the game.

Join the Resistance.

    There’s a lot to do and we’re a lot more powerful if we join together. We’ll be leading our #ResistTrump movement and could use some help. To join the resistance, follow us on Twitter (


    ) and Facebook (


    ); get your friends to sign up for the

Progress Report

    ; and consider making a donation to the

Trump Investigative Fund

    . (Kick in $40 and we’ll send you our Resist t-shirt.)


Thanks to you: 2016 Milestones & Victories – Lindsey Allen, Rainforest Action Network

Here are just a few of the milestones you and our allies made possible in 2016:

Protect Rainforests - Donate Now!
  • We pressured the Indonesian government to issue a moratorium on palm oil and mining permits in critical rainforests.
  • We forced Abercrombie & Fitch and their sub-brand Hollister to cut ties with wood-based fabrics linked to deforestation and human rights abuses. 
  • We turned up the pressure on PepsiCo to “Cut Conflict Palm Oil” from their supply chains, directly challenging executives, dropping a 100 foot banner off the iconic Pepsi sign on the East River in New York City, and bringing organizers and media to their headquarters — and their home town!
  • We raised the profile of the Leuser Ecosystem. RAN’s Lindsey Allen met with actor/environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio at the COP 21 Paris climate talks — resulting in DiCaprio’s visit to the Leuser and his highlighting this issue in his climate documentary, Before the Flood, which quickly became the most-watched documentary film in history.
  • We followed the money — all the way the forest. In 2016, RAN launched our Forest and Finance campaign, which now holds the world’s largest financial institutions accountable for financing large-scale environmental destruction.
Protect the Climate - Donate Now!
  • We froze new leasing on federal coal. Thanks to our coalition’s campaigns the Obama Administration and the Department of Interior announced an immediate moratorium and new assessment of the federal coal program.
  • We revealed which banks were betting on catastrophe and “Shorting the Climate.” Our latest report on the financial industry and their role in profiting off climate change was our most ambitious report to date — focusing on coal, liquified natural gas (from fracking), extreme oil extraction, and the human rights impacts of these industrial sectors.
  • We pushed Obama to protect key areas, like the Atlantic and Arctic, from offshore drilling.RAN and our allies generated more than one million comments on the U.S. offshore drilling plan — these comments and years of campaigning resulted in these oceans removal from the five year drilling plan.
  • We organized nationwide Keep It In the Ground actions to fight fossil fuels. We worked with local communities and national partners to challenge nearly 30 federal lease sales across the country — from Alaska to Idaho, from Montana to Ohio, from Colorado to Louisiana.
Uphold Human Rights - Donate Now!
  • We changed the conversation on labor rights and human rights in the palm oil industry. Our groundbreaking report “The Human Cost of Palm Oil” — and our accompanying animated short — exposed the rampant rights abuses that are associated with Conflict Palm Oil. And for the first time, this year’s Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was focused on these issues.
  • In support of the Standing Rock Sioux’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, we pushed out financial research on the banks funding the pipeline to drive pressure to the financial root of the problem. We stand in strong solidarity and deep appreciation with the Standing Rock Sioux leadership and the hundreds of other tribes and allies that fought against the Dakota Access Pipeline, through coordinated local action, media support, and direct support on the ground.

With 2017 right around the corner, we know the road ahead is rough. We are rapidly assessing what will be necessary to continue our work going forward. But we have been here before. For three decades — including during some very unfriendly administrations — Rainforest Action Network has made significant progress to protect people and planet.

We have decades of experience when it comes to taking on the logging industry, the banking industry, the coal mining industry, the biggest snack food companies on the planet — there’s never really an easy time to do this work. In order to elevate our efforts in the coming year to assure we continue achieving milestones and victories like those above, we need your support. Please consider ending 2016 with a tax-deductible donation so we can start the new year off like never before.

As always, thank you so much for your support. We need it now more than ever.

For people and planet,


Lindsey Allen
Lindsey Allen
Exectuive Director
Rainforest Action Network