Williamsburg

Experience the arctic at Williamsburg pop-up

October 24, 2019 Paul Frangipane
The Arctic Refuge Experience: Step in Step up, is a sensory explosion of sights, textures and smells that can all be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
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In a frozen sea of pop-ups, Brooklyn’s latest is spending its limited time to bring urbanites to the endangered lands of Alaska in an effort to motivate young people to protect one of the few undeveloped places on Earth.

“The Arctic Refuge Experience: Step in Step up,” is a sensory explosion of sights, textures and smells that can all be found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. After decades of protection, the nearly 20 million-acre area is about to be opened to oil drilling, a move that advocates fear will destroy its wildlife and threaten its indigenous inhabitants.

“We think the arctic refuge is incredibly valuable, incredibly special, it’s frankly a place that few people will ever get to visit … so we hope that showing this place and showing the people will help inspire a new generation of advocates to take action,” said Edit Ruano of the Wilderness Society, one of the groups responsible for the exhibit.

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The experience brings visitors through a year in the arctic using 4D technology. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
The experience brings visitors through a year in the arctic using 4D technology. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

With 4D technology, visitors are brought through a year in the arctic with images and sounds of sparkling Alaskan landscapes covered with migrating wildlife. The ground is covered in makeshift greenery and scents that are used by local hunters to cloak themselves while hunting enter the nostrils.

The seven-minute experience takes a dire turn with presentations of current events before the portraits of Gwich’in youth close it out.

Images and sounds of the local wildlife flood the screens. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Images and sounds of the local wildlife flood the screens. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

“As I was walking through, it really gave me a sense of being back home, but only when the youth came up and their voices and what they were expressing, did I start crying,” said Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

Demientieff is from Fort Yukon, where she has been fighting against threats to her people for decades.

The presentation takes a dire turn, addressing the threats that approach the refuge. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
The presentation takes a dire turn, addressing the threats that approach the refuge. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

In 2017, the Trump administration passed a tax act that held a provision to open oil and gas leasing development in the Arctic Refuge. Advocates anticipate potential oil leasing by December.

“It’s a violation of our human rights,” Demientieff said. “You can’t just come into peoples homelands and do as you please and totally disrupt their way of life.”

Oil drilling could endanger the native Gwich'in people. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane
Oil drilling could endanger the native Gwich’in people. Eagle photo by Paul Frangipane

As part of the Nation’s Outraged Wilderness Advocates Assemble Against Hypocrisy campaign, visitors of the pop-up will also have the opportunity to leave voicemails for several oil and gas company CEOs and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt.

The exhibit will be open from Thursday Oct. 24 through Sunday Oct. 27 at 25 Kent Ave. in Williamsburg.


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