Who wants to live in a world without polar bears?! There is no other animal that conjures up such majestic and fearful images of the wild Arctic than Ursus maritimus. Polar bears are the largest land-based predators on the planet. They survive exclusively on ringed seals, which provide them with a very high calorie source of fat for surviving the extreme cold of the Arctic. They are actually thought to be as smart as apes and must employ this intelligence to hunt down tricky ringed seals.
I have a very close attachment to the fate of polar bears because of a nickname that I developed while in my first year in undergraduate school. I was going home one weekend with some friends to a high school football game and it was quite frigid outside. I believe the temperature was around 27 degrees. I had the urge to stick my head out the window and feel the chilly air so I did. One of my friends yelled at me to close the window and then said, “It’s freezing out there, close the window! What the hell are you, some kind of polar bear?!” Because of this comment, my height and my fair skin and hair, the nickname stuck and I have been interested in polar bears ever since.
Where’s the ice?
Like many other species on the planet, the survival of polar bears is threatened by habitat loss. However, the effects of global warming on the habitat of polar bears are greater in polar bear habitat because temperatures at the poles are rising faster than those on other parts of the globe. This means that much of the sea ice that polar bears depend on for hunting and breeding is melting away, leaving them with smaller amounts of ice to inhabit.
Research by the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group show that 8 out of 12 polar bear populations studied in 2009 are declining compared to only 5 populations that were declining in 2005. Even if we stopped pumping out all the greenhouse gases we put into the Earth’s atmosphere tomorrow, the results of global warming would still carry on for several years into the future. This means that we have to act soon to reverse the trend of warming in time to save enough sea ice for polar bears to survive. If we do not, I will have a meaningless nickname and this would be horrible.
Your call to action
There are many simple ways that we can all reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere: carpooling, buying a fuel-efficient vehicle, composting our food waste rather than sending it to the landfill, conserving water in domestic use helps reduce energy use significantly and buying local and/or organic reduces the amount of fuel burnt for food transportation and pesticide use. These are all simple things that we can do without putting a large dent in our wallet to help curb greenhouse gases.
Here is a great informational video on polar bears and the threats they face.