I woke up this morning to an email from MySpace – they’re featuring my blog on their Our Planet channel: http://www.myspace.com/ourplanet. Many thanks to MySpace for sharing these stories and helping spread awareness about polar bears and how we can all help preserve the Arctic region.
Also, big thanks to Chuck (Dr. Jonkel), Shannon, Matt and everyone at The Great Bear Foundation for the amazing experience and sharing their wealth of knowledge.
The main reason I spent 8 days on planes, buses, and trains, traveling to the Arctic was to experience first-hand the affects of climate change on polar bears and Arctic ecology. It seems awareness of climate change has increased and more and more people know that the survival of polar bears is threatened, but it can still feel like “a problem over there” — not part of our day to day consciousness. I don’t believe this is malicious, it just isn’t top-of-mind for many people, most of the time. I live in LA where it’s 73 degrees and beautiful almost every day of the year. It’s hard to expect everyone in LA to think about ice caps melting and polar bears heading toward extinction, on a day to day basis. People all over the world are consumed with their own survival, happiness, and daily responsibilities – global warming is not top-of-mind, even though they’re aware of it.
The thing to remember is that it’s all connected. The way we live, wherever we live, has an impact on the environment as a whole, which in turn has an impact on us. Dr. Jonkel (Chuck) reminded us that people are wasting time debating whether Global Warming is something people are causing or just “part of mother nature’s natural cycle.” He encouraged us to recognize that both points of view are valid – some of the climate change we see is mother nature “doing her thing” AND some of it is caused or accelerated by what we’re doing. All Chuck asked of us is that we help the part that we can control – the impact we have on the earth and the things we can do to minimize that.
Several groups have put together lists of simple steps to combat global warming in our everyday life. Stop Global Warming has a great list: http://www.stopglobalwarming.org/sgw_actionitems.asp
The NRDC is also doing work on climate change: http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/default.asp
Global Warming Solution is a Missoula, Montana based organization founded by a Great Bear alum. Their executive summary is really helpful:
Global Warming Initiatives, Inc is a really cool company that helps businesses to reduce their carbon footprint while at the same time saving money on energy efficiency:
The lists of simple steps are great in that they are easy to achieve and anybody can do things like switch to energy efficient light bulbs, etc. And if we get enough people to do these things, we can make a difference.
We can also support initiatives like the Western Climate Change Initiative:
This is an alliance of seven western states and two canadian provinces working on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We can pressure our schools, workplaces, and local and state governments to conduct greenhouse gas inventories, to determine how much impact they are having and how they can reduce that impact. It often saves money in the long run on energy costs.
The bumper sticker, “think globally, act locally” has never meant as much as it does today. The average meal travels 1,500 miles to our dinner plates, consuming fossil fuels for transport, processing, refrigeration, etc. One of the biggest changes we can make in our everyday lives is to buy locally, eat locally, and eat seasonally. By gardening or participating in CSA’s, we not only reduce the fossil fuels used to feed ourselves, but the plants we grow also help to produce clean air and to sequester carbon. Can or dry the extra food from your harvest, and you can eat your bounty year round. Grow squashes, potatoes, and other hardy vegetables that can grow late in the season and keep throughout the winter.
Chuck would say that one of the most important things we can do is to raise awareness of the polar regions. There are few people living up there, and their voices are rarely heard. Most people think of the north as a barren waste of ice. The more people learn about the Arctic, the more they will care about it. That’s the point of Chuck’s “Learning to Talk Arctic” lecture. As people become more familiar with the polar regions, they will care more.
I fell in love with polar bears during this trip. I stood 30 feet away from them and watched in awe as they played, searched for alternative food sources, and walked across the ice with power and grace. I think about them every time I put gas in my car or ask a business to turn off the air conditioning when it’s cold outside (and inside). I think about the collective positive impact we can have by taking simple steps in our own lives and educating (and sometimes pressuring) business owners to make positive changes. And then I do everything I can to help ensure the survival of polar bears and make a positive impact on the Earth.