Damon Winter/The New York TimesGreat article in yesterday’s New York Times about the battle in the Arctic over oil and the threat to the way of life of the Inupiat.

As the Times says: “The culture and traditions of the Inupiat revolve around whaling and seasonal hunting, which could be disrupted by a Prudhoe Bay-style oil development … The traditional way of life is coming into conflict with one of the modern world’s most urgent priorities: finding more oil.”

“Royal Dutch Shell is determined to exploit vast reserves believed to lie off Alaska’s coast. The Bush administration backs the idea and has issued offshore leases in recent years totaling an area nearly the size of Maryland”

However, those “leases have received far less attention than failed efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but they may prove to be far more important. By some estimates, the oil under the Alaskan seabed could exceed the reserves remaining in the rest of the United States, though how much might ultimately be recoverable is uncertain.”

Although Shell is eager to find out, it has been blocked by an alliance of Inupiat whalers and environmental groups who filed a suit in federal court. The court case opened yesterday, although a judgement is not expected for months.

Read the full article here.