The Arctic landscape is devoid of color during the frozen days of February. There’s the white of the tundra, the white of sea ice and often the sky, and the darkness of cold, long nights.
So when a wall of coffee-colored smoke rolled toward the small village of Nuiqsut in 2012, there was no mistaking—something was wrong.
Just eight miles from the grid of single family homes, government offices, a grocery store and schools, more than 50,000 barrels of oil—or roughly a tenth of the state’s oil production—is pumped each day from oil fields. Parents get a view of the newest well, three miles from town, when they drop their kids at school.