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A World Without Polar Bears

Posted by at 5:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)


A World Without Polar Bears by Lisa Towell

©2010 Jupiterimages Corporation

The future does not look bright for polar bears. Scientists have projected that two-thirds of the world’s polar bear population will have vanished by 2050, with the species nearing extinction by 2100. The main culprit is human-caused climate change. Polar bears are dependent on the Arctic sea ice as a platform from which to hunt seals. The extent of the Arctic ice has decreased dramatically in recent years as temperatures have risen, and at this rate, it’s only a matter of time until the Arctic Ocean is entirely ice-free in the summer.

When the ice melts earlier than usual, the bears don’t have enough time to build up the necessary fat reserves to sustain themselves until the next winter freeze. Melting ice also requires them to swim for longer distances, further depleting their energy. Reports are increasing of bears starving to death, drowning, or even resorting to cannibalism because of the changing conditions.

Animal activists must constantly make choices about the best ways to help animals. With only so many hours in the day, do we work to ban puppy mills, halt cruel laboratory experiments, stop the sale of fur, or take action in other campaigns that we’re passionate about? Personally, I often find myself focusing on the 10 billion land animals slaughtered for food every year in the U.S. simply because of the sheer number of suffering animals. Current estimates put the polar bear population at fewer than 25,000, a tiny figure by comparison. As sad as it is to see polar bears go, we must ask: Why is it so important to save them?

The looming extinction of polar bears is a warning for humans. Arctic ice acts as a cooling system for the planet, reflecting the sun’s energy back into space. As the sea ice disappears, the black water beneath it starts absorbing heat, accelerating the warming process and melting additional ice. Rising ocean levels are a very real threat to the hundreds of millions of people who live within 30 feet of sea level. By saving polar bears, we may also be saving ourselves.

Polar bears are the top predators of the Arctic. The carcasses of bear-killed seals provide a major food source to scavengers such as the Arctic fox. We don’t know exactly what will happen as polar bears vanish, but biologists have observed in many ecosystems that the disappearance of the apex predator sets off a chain reaction in many other species, perhaps leading to additional extinctions.

Polar bears are unique—they are an elegant expression of nature’s ability to fill the narrowest niche with a perfectly adapted animal. Of course, not all evolutionary experiments are ultimately successful, but polar bears were doing fine in their particular niche until we cranked up the heat. It saddens me that the disappearance of this once-thriving species will be the direct result of human dependence on carbon-based fuels.

In 2008, after years of pressure from environmental groups, the U.S. government listed polar bears as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change. So far, the government has refused to use the Endangered Species Act as a lever for climate change legislation, but a recent ruling by a federal judge may soon change that. The judge has ordered the Interior Department to reconsider granting endangered status to polar bears. Changing the status of polar bears from threatened to endangered could lead to stronger protections for the bears and help for all species at risk from the effects of climate change.

You can help polar bears by supporting legislation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions and by acting to reduce your own carbon footprint. One of the best ways to do this is to stop eating meat.

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    Lisa Towell says...

    November 15th, 2010, 3:12 pm

    You can contact Interior Secretary Ken Salazar via this link to request that polar bears receive the full protection of the Endangered Species Act:

    http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/o/2167/t/5243/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5133

    sunnycc says...

    November 19th, 2010, 3:41 pm

    When you say that “two thirds of the worlds polar bears will have vanished by 2050″, do you not mean that they will have died? Is not vanished too misleadingly gentle a word for what will have happened to them in reality? I do hope that God sees fit to take me home before I must watch as a multitude of species pass into oblivion and our planet breathes death back into in our faces. The story, & the polar bear photo above, has brought me to the reality of my need to meet my goal to be a vegatarian. Thank you for that, & more.

    Tucker says...

    November 19th, 2010, 5:17 pm

    THIS IS SOOOO SAAAD, I CAN’T TAKE IT!!!!!!!!!

    I AM DOING EVERYTHING I CAN IN MY POWER
    TO HELP THE POLAR BEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I HOPE EVERYONE IS DOING THE SAME AND IF YOU HAVEN’T
    BEEN, STEP UP NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    EVERY VOICE NEEDS TO BE HEARD LOUD AND CLEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!
    EVRY PERSON NEEDS TO DO ALL THEY CAN TO HELP SAVE THESE
    LIVING, GREAT BEINGS THAT DESERVE TO LIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sabine Lee says...

    November 19th, 2010, 6:32 pm

    Speaking of the arctic and polar bears, I do have another question to ask you for advice. What ever happened to the save the arctic seal compaign that was so active before the olympics. Has the seal slaughter halted, been stopped or ?? I don’t usually watch TV or keep up on the news and haven’t heard back. I still have dozens of flyers, and could perhaps still pass them out if I knew it was still needed. Please fill me in on the seal slaughter situation, it probably further diminishes the polar bear’s ability to sustain itself too with the hunters clubbing the seals to death on the ice. Thanks!

    Paul Phillips says...

    November 19th, 2010, 7:33 pm

    Hi Sabine,

    Unfortunately the seal slaughter in Canada is still happening and so our campaign must continue. You can keep up with the latest on PETA’s campaign to save seal’s skins through our Canada’s Shame web site or our PETA Files blog posts.

    Thanks!

    Gabriela says...

    November 19th, 2010, 10:37 pm

    We all should do something about tje polar bears, this is so sad, we need to act before its too late!!!

    Casey Ronas says...

    November 20th, 2010, 1:59 am

    We cannot let a single more animal/species. They are a part of our ecosystem in which each animal has it’s own vital purpose. When an animal or whole species of animals it has a direct effect on humanity. We MUST save the polar bears and their habitat, as well as being exponentially kind to our habitat; earth. We can’t set a date for this. It is crucial to start immediately. If you already treat our earth in environmentally; encourage others to do the same.

    angelofthewest says...

    November 20th, 2010, 4:22 am

    Letting polar bears die out is letting climate change take over. If we can’t save these beautiful bears, vital to their eco-system, what can we save??? Same with tigers.

    That’s not to say the polar bears don’t need help as well – we need to tread lighter on the planet in order to live in harmony with nature and the rest of the world’s creatures. Going against nature doesn’t work – you just get wiped out. No question.

    I’d rather rescue the polar bears!

    Morgaine Wakelin says...

    November 29th, 2010, 4:04 pm

    The plight of polar bears makes one feel so helpless. What can one do apart from trying not to contribute to climate change and making others aware of what is happening’

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