Tag Archives: sustainability

‘Ologists

View from my room on the river

View from my room on the river

 

I arrived in Missoula, Montana last night.  Monica, who works at the Bear foundation, picked me up at the airport and introduced me to Montana by taking me to the local dive bar.  I met a bunch of great people at the bar – some of the nicest people in the world (and not just because they had a few drinks in them).  

When people heard I was going on this trip they asked, “what kind of ‘Ologist are you?!” expecting a response such as, “Biologist,” “ecologist,” or “geologist.” Instead, I responded, “I’m a fun-ologist!” I’m here to live, have fun, and meet people (and polar bears). To share these experiences and hopefully inspire others to embark on their own adventures, raise consciousness, affect positive change. 

In the time that’s passed since the dream, I’ve changed. Not who I am of course, but how I live. It wasn’t a fully conscious decision or something born out of guilt or obligation.  It just started happening.  I was taking shorter showers, recycling everything that could be recycled, trading in plastic bottles for Nalgene, and replacing household cleaners with non-toxic, biodegradable alternatives. 

It’s not that I had ignored all the information until now.  I made several shifts to help the environment prior to the polar bear dream: walking to work every day, replacing light bulbs, using all appliances in energy-efficient mode, never using the air conditioning or heat (living in Santa Monica makes that one easy), maintaining air pressure in my tires for the rare occasions I actually drove somewhere, recycling the obvious things (but not everything).  I had seen An Inconvenient Truth, March of The Penguins, An Arctic Tale, the news…

But after the dream came a true awakening. I don’t need to think about it anymore.  It’s no longer a decision I’m making.  It’s just the way I live.  It feels effortless. As I learn about additional alternatives, I adopt them.  Seventh Generation products are everywhere in my home (shouldn’t ALL toilet paper be made from recycled paper?!? Do we really need to be using new trees to wipe our a$$?!). 

Different thoughts cross my mind now:

  • What if every hotel, gym, office building, and restaurant used toilet paper made from recycled materials? What if every household did the same?
  • I’ve showered, shampooed, and conditioned using a 5-gallon Sun Shower when camping
    •  low-flow shower heads (which most of us have now) still flow approximately 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
    • My 5-gallon sun showers have lasted as long as 5 – 10 minutes and was all that was needed to be thoroughly showered.
  • Why is everything over-packaged? A small gift ordered online arrives in a huge box, sometimes only to be found lying in yet a smaller box, among Styrofoam or plastic “filler.”

I now turn off the water while shampooing, conditioning, and shaving.  I recycle everything that can be recycled. All “paper” products are made of recycled or alternative materials. I see things differently – I now prefer those air-blowing hand dryers in public restrooms (when I see paper towels, I see trees). While at Club Med 2 weeks ago I noticed they were using styrofoam cups in the cafeteria.  There were nearly 600 people there that week – if only a third of them took a cup, during the 3 meals per day, that’s 600 cups per day, times 7 days… there has to be a better way. But sitting in Turks & Caicos, surrounded by water (although the ocean is receding there by 10″ per year as well), it can be easier for people to not see the impact our daily choices (like styrofoam cups) have on the environment.  It’s likely also more difficult to find responsible alternatives on an island. But we should try…

The shift was natural.  It doesn’t feel extreme. And I know there are more changes I can make that would have a positive impact on the environment. It’s all connected – the dream, the polar bears, the way I live.  What I do here, today, affects the polar bears I’m going to see in a few days. 

 

My First Encounter With The Polar Bear

resting-bear2

 

We were eye to eye.  His fixed gaze made me forget the chill in the air. It was a clear, sunny day; the reflection of light bouncing off the snow was nearly blinding.  I couldn’t take my eyes off him.  He was absolutely magnificent. A living paradox. A creature of incredible strength, begging for help.

 

And that was my first encounter with the polar bear.

 

It was one of those moments when the world seemed to come to a halt.  We were all alone – the bear and I.  It felt like we were on the last remaining piece of ice.  This huge, yellowish-white being was only a dozen feet away from me.  He could easily crush me. 

 

But somehow I didn’t feel fear.  Maybe it’s because I’ve always rejected fear in an act of rebellion against over-protective parents.  Or maybe it’s because I knew the reason for this encounter is that I had actually already hurt the magnificent bear. The look in his eyes was pleading.  He was happy to see me, but looked at me as if to say, “What are you going to do??”

 

And then I woke up. 

 

The dream was vivid.  I felt everything happening as if I were experiencing it consciously, awake.  I’ve had other dreams that felt this way and they’ve all come true, so I didn’t take it lightly.  They say how you feel after the dream is as important as how you feel during the dream. I didn’t feel afraid.  I felt urgency.  The polar bear was asking me what I was going to do to.  His situation was dire and I felt a great responsibility to help him.  

 

The dream took place in the early-morning hours of Sunday, June 29, 2008. I couldn’t shake the reality of it or the look in the bear’s eyes as he pleaded for my help. I rushed to the coffee table downstairs and picked up a magazine I found at the gym earlier that month.  The cover story was: 10 Life Changing Adventures.  I remembered reading about a polar bear expedition among the other 9 adventures now on my “list.”  I re-read the article and then jumped online to learn more about the trip. There wasn’t too much information so I sent a simple email:

 

Please send me registration information on the November 2008 trip.

 

When I awoke Monday morning I was thankful to receive the quick reply:

 

Hello,

I have attached info and a registration form on the course.  Just so you know, right now the course is full, so we are putting people on a waiting list.  We have had people back out in the past, so let me know if you want me to put you on the list. ~Monica

 

I could have been disappointed by the message. But I knew I’d be going on this trip.  It didn’t occur to me that it would be full.  And if it was, it just didn’t seem to matter – I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else.  I quickly completed the registration form, but before I could get it to the fax machine I received this message:

 

Hello Again,

It turns out we may have one more spot available, so let me know if you are interested.

Monica

 

And thus begins my second encounter with the polar bear. I leave for the Arctic on Friday and will be blogging, posting photos (and video when available) daily.  More on this later, but I’m traveling with 2 scientists who have studied bears and Arctic ecology for more than 40 years.  So if you have any questions you’d like me to ask them, please send them to me (click “Stay In Touch” tab above) and I’ll post replies here.