The Controversy Around Polar Bears

Polar bears seem to make the eco-headlines often enough but, so far, haven’t worked their way into my blog.  Why?  I suppose it’s because I just haven’t known which angle to take.  Does telling people about polar bears dying of exhaustion really motivate them to do something about climate change?  Is there any way to finish such an article with a positive, practical spin?  So far, I haven’t faced the topic – purely because I’ve wondered how constructive it would be. What good is it, my writing that this species is dying? Losing all its habitat.  After all, we already know don’t we?  And the ones of us who really care try to do something about it, and the ones who don’t, don’t.

So, why write about them now?  Don’t get your hopes up.  I haven’t heard some wonderful piece of news to lift your spirits.  My decision to write comes from more of a ‘last straw’ motivation.  I’m not about to be positive, I’m about to be angry.  Angry on behalf of these magnificent, beautiful, ferocious creatures.  But before I explain the ‘controversy’ that’s making me angry, let’s have a little background on the stories I could have written thus far this year, all newsworthy stories in themselves.

In July of this year the National Geographic reported the longest recorded swim of a polar bear, stating that a  female, which had previously been collared and could be tracked by GPS, swam 426 miles (non-stop) between dwindling sea ice – a distance comparable to the distance between Washington DC and Boston.  During the swim she lost 22% of her body weight, and her cub died.  Of 11 female bears collared for the study, 5 lost their cubs in long distance swims.

Later in July, Charles Monnett, the wildlife biologist who presented the world with evidence that climate change was effecting polar bears was suspended from work. Sceptical news stories ran that it was so the US government could hand out permits, unrestricted, to oil companies wishing to drill off the arctic.  Before his suspension, Monnett was in charge of over $50 million worth of scientific research projects, esentially ‘all the science in the arctic’ according to one interviewee in an article by the Guardian.

Then, in September, an article honestly entitled ‘So Much for the Polar Bears – Arctic Drilling to Begin‘ was published on the website  The piece explained: ‘U.S. oil international Exxon Mobil has sealed an Arctic oil exploration deal with Russia’s state-owned oil firm Rosneft’.  Meanwhile, in the UK, Greenpeace had been trying to get Carin Energy, drilling off Greenland, to publish their spill response plans for drilling in such a delicate eco-zone.   The Greenland government finally took measures into their own hands and published Carin’s emergency plans for them.  One of the ideas for cleaning up an Arctic spill involved cutting blocks of ice free and thawing them to remove the oil.

All this tied in closely with several articles, recently published, revealing how quickly the Arctic sea ice is receding.  Greenpeace ship ‘Arctic Sunrise’ had to sail for two days longer than normal before they finally reached the beginning of the ice.  An English explorer and crew rowed most of their way to the North Pole, only having tow their boat for a minimal distance to get there.  Time magazine reported that ‘[j]ust 1.67 million sq. mi. (4.32 million sq km) of the Arctic sea was covered by ice as of mid-September — a little larger than the all-time record low of 1.608 million sq. mi. (4.16 million sq km) set in September 2007’.

So, with all those horrendous, news stories now told – here is the ‘controversial’ issue. Despite being an endangered species, and despite being threatened so severely by climate change – NRDC* has had to launch a campaign to prevent the US hunting lobby from making polar bears ‘fair game’ again.  In an email I received as an online supporter, NRDC stated: ‘The trophy hunting lobby wants to take away the polar bear’s lifesaving protections — so they can kill bears and put them on display’.  Pro-hunters in the US are trying to change legislation so they can hunt polar bears.

There is my reason for being angry, or even more angry than normal about the plight of the polar bears.  Before now, I haven’t delved into the issues of animal rights and hunting too much – to avoid the moral rigmarole that goes with it.  Instead, most of my blogs have been written from a practical standpoint, stating the negative values of economic disasters as reason to avoid them.  I’ve avoided the animal rights issue because many people reading my blog may be meat eaters, or be pro-hunt, and might feel that my opinions on the matter come from simple emotive reasons.  But I think we can/should all be able to agree to this (although I am aware that there is a minority out there who can’t) – that hunting and killing endangered animals is wrong, and that killing endangered animals merely for fun, or as trophies, is barbaric, idiotic, senseless.  And I think we can all agree – this is one trial too many for the polar bear.

*National Resources Defence Council


About EcoTheme

Welcome to EcoTheme. I’m from the the county of Dorset in the South West of England. Having studied environmental ethics and written a Masters dissertation on the ethics of sustainable living I now work with Campaign against Climate Change and Greenpeace. I started EcoTheme to present discussion and views on things going on in the environmental world. It should become clear through my posts that I believe our environmental problems to be the most pressing matters of the day – not simply because I place value in our natural world but also because it is the platform on which all life depends.
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