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Polar Bears Reprise

ew cameo.jpg Friends may recall that, six months ago, as I was crossing Indiana, I posted an essay here talking briefly about the plight of the polar bears.

Because of the changing climate, the sea ice around the North Pole is disappearing. In the western part of Hudson Bay, the ice sheet covering the water is breaking up, on average, two and a half weeks earlier in the spring than it did thirty years ago.

This leaves polar bears less time each year to hunt on the ice for ringed seals, who are the main calorie source in their diet. So the bears are malnourished, female bears’ reproductive rates are down, cub mortality rates are up — and the local bear population fell twenty-one per cent just in the seven years from 1997 to 2004.

Bears in Alaska are challenged by the fact that the distances from ice floe to ice floe are growing. Thus they must swim longer distances, and in September 2004 alone, four were found drowned. Bears were also seen killing and eating one another to survive.

There aren’t that many polar bears to begin with — just 25,000 worldwide, 4,500 in Alaska. As the polar ice finishes melting in the next thirty-five years or so, it could be the end of the bears.

image from Polar Bears InternationalPhoto by Dan Guravich, copyright © 2006 Polar Bears International. Check them out!

— Which brings us to today’s news. According to an anonymous official in the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bush regime has caved in under the pressure of a lawsuit from three environmental organizations, and is about to propose that polar bears be listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

(This is the same Endangered Species Act that soon-to-be-ex-U.S.-Representative Pombo was trying hard to repeal, or at least gut, this very year.)

A listing of polar bears under the Act — if it indeed happens — will constitute a formal written admission from the Bush regime that global warming is real and is threatening at least one well-known and beloved species.

If you have friends still denying that global warming is happening, this might perhaps be something to share with them. (I trust you all to wait on the Guide, to show you when and how to talk about it.)

This news might also help them become more conscious of that other, less talked about, but even more critical environmental crisis — species extinction.

The Washington Post reported on this development here. The Los Angeles Times reported on it here.

If your friends happen to be near a computer when you talk to them about the bears, you might also show them this animated map from the National Arbor Day Foundation, which shows how the zones at which different plants will grow have all marched northward across the U.S. from 1990 to 2006. (I am grateful to Karen Street and her blog A Musing Environment for calling attention to this pointer.)

ew tiny.pngThanks, friends all, for paying attention.

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Reader Comments (4)

Thanks for this posting.

It's important to note that some, including John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, believe that a 1.5 C (2.5 F) temperature increase over pre-industrial days could doom the polar bear. And that we are already committed to a 1.4 C increase (temperatures are 0.8 C, but because of thermal lag in the ocean, we are committed to 0.6 C more).

Jan 17, 2007 at 10:39AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren Street

Hi, Karen! Thanks for stopping by -- I'm grateful for your sharing of information. (This web site can't hold a candle to your own in that regard!)

It has occurred to me that if one effect of global warming is to shift the Gulf Stream south, and another is to increase snowfall on some subarctic regions (due to tropospheric air masses moving outward from the Arctic Ocean, carrying with them moisture that they've picked up from the now-open sea), then the polar bear might survive somewhat longer. But if this occurs, what could preserve the bear could also doom London and blight Boston.

Jan 18, 2007 at 08:50AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

I believe that there's power in prayer. How about we pray to the almighty Savior to help these animals called polar bears make it. In life things happen for a reason, so when you pray and the bears are still here they were meant to stay here. But if they don't it was time for the bears to die. Yes, its sad and hurtful for people who love animals and stuff. But we need not worry because Jesus will take care of this situation. Jesus will fix it.

May 23, 2007 at 03:06PM | Unregistered CommenterFran411

Hello, Fran, and thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking up.

I agree that prayer is very important! And I also agree that it is not our job to worry.

But I also remember how Christ himself said that, on the Day of Judgment, we'll be judged, and sent to Heaven or Hell, on the basis of whether we actually did anything or not to help those who were in need. That's Matthew 25:31-46, in case you're curious.

So just trusting in Jesus to fix what's wrong with the world is apparently not enough. We have to get off our duffs and do something about it, or else we may be sure that we will be sent to the wrong place when we die.

In fact, that's not the only place where such a teaching appears. In the Lord's Prayer, Christ taught us to pray, "Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." You remember that, surely! But how is God's will to be done? In Matthew 7:21, Christ tells us, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven." So we little, weak humans are obliged to help God's will along.

If, in our hearts, we hear the loving God pleading for help for His suffering animals, that tells us that it is His will that they be given help -- and it won't be those who merely call Christ "Lord" who get to heaven; it'll be those who deliver the actual help those creatures need.

May 24, 2007 at 05:37AM | Registered CommenterMarshall Massey

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