Ursus maritimus means “maritime bear”. Interestingly enough, the polar bear, is classified as a marine mammal. This is because a polar bear spends most of its life on sea ice. These large, powerful carnivores are also culturally important to the native peoples in the Arctic regions of our planet.
Due to the effects of global climate change, polar bears have been classified as a vulnerable species. Some of the populations of these animals are currently in decline. The seriousness of polar bear decline is the driving force behind the work of Polar Bears International and today’s observation of Polar Bear Day. These efforts have helped polar bears become one of the most recognizable images of the environmental movement.
As climatologists and statisticians have noted, climate change is already causing many areas of ocean warming and sea level rise. The higher seas cause frequent coastal flooding around the world and storm damage to be more costly. Not only are our domestic coastal ecosystems in danger, so are those of the Arctic regions.
Because the window of opportunity to reduce the most serious symptoms of climate change is closing rapidly, we must make meaningful adjustments to our lifestyles as soon as possible. This is where the studies and advocacy of Polar Bears International comes into play.
This NGO’s mission is to “…conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. Through media, science, and advocacy, we work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.”
Because the Arctic climate is changing, so are the habitats of polar bears. One issue is that the habitats are moving southward. This is causing the bears to interact with more places of human habitation. There are more reports of human conflicts with polar bears.
As a part of the extended observance of Polar Bear Day, Polar Bears International has initiated the “Thermostat Challenge”. By adjusting wintertime thermostat settings down two degrees Celsius and summertime settings up two degrees Celsius, not only will energy use decrease, but real, monetary savings will result.
It is strongly hoped that measures like these, taken by regular citizens around the world, will help polar bears remain a part of the Arctic. Of course, what affects the Arctic also affects the rest of the Earth, because everything is interconnected.
Today we can join in International Polar Bear Day to celebrate the Earth’s largest bears and contemplate the challenges that polar bears face in the quickly changing Arctic regions. We can do this, knowing that what affects the polar bears, ultimately affects us, too.
The Blue Jay of Happiness suggests this link: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/