On an otherwise deserted patch of Arctic ice stands an abandoned settlement, proof that humans once lived here. Nearby lies a reminder of why they came: dozens of massive whale skulls, still bleeding oil into the ground. Men once flocked to this land for whale oil, Michael Gerson writes in the Washington Post; now our dependence on a different kind of oil might change it forever.
Gerson reviews the evidence that the Arctic is being transformed—faster than the rest of the globe—by global warming, and acknowledges the challenge of replacing carbon as the central fuel in our lives. “But as I stand near the top of the world on a desolate shore with whale skulls and ruins," Gerson writes, "the crude oil economy appears about as primitive and destructive as the whale oil economy now seems.”