Thursday, May 03, 2012


"Where are the cries to save the seals?"

Polar Bear
You saw the image if you ever watched Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. Polar bears, swimming in an iceless sea, desperately looking for land so they and their cubs can rest. The polar bear became a sort of mascot for the global warming movement; an image that most people found attractive and sympathetic, despite their being huge, dangerous carnivores. There's just something likeable about a big, soft-looking snowy white bear with kindly seeming eyes.

The polar bear, children around the world were told, is vanishing. Their numbers are fading away, they are dying because they are losing the sea ice they need. We're losing the polar bear, a small population desperately threatened by our wasteful, polluting ways. The World Wildlife Federation ran ads telling everyone:
The ice is melting all around them and food is becoming harder to find as they lose their hunting grounds. Climate change. It's happening right now and its leaving mothers weaker and unable to provide for their young and cubs dying without enough to eat. As the struggle and the search for food continues polar bears are hanging on for survival. Polar bears are on their way to extinction. If we don't act now, most will die in our children's lifetime. But you can change that. Call now and join the Wildlife Rescue Team. For just $16 a month you'll be part of the most ambitious effort to save wildlife and wild places the world has ever seen.... If we don't act now, it could be too late for the polar bear.
Since then the ad has been yanked from You Tube, and a new one is up telling everyone the bear is vanishing and you can adopt one for £2 a month, which I suppose is used to buy fish or ice or something. The United States government officially declared the Polar Bear a threatened species in 2008, one step from endangered.

Clearly, these bears are in danger as their habitat melts away, and how can we as responsible human beings let such an adorable creature die off? Where is your heart, Captain Planet?

The problem is that's almost entirely nonsense.

Even at the WWF website admits that "20,000-25,000 of these powerful animals remain in the wild" and that the animal is "not endangered." In fact, in 1970, scientists estimated that there were as many as 10,000 of the huge animals in the world, which had more than doubled by 2005. Of the 19 known populations of polar bears around the arctic, 2 are decreasing, 6 are static, and eleven are increasing.

So yes, there are groups of polar bears which are decreasing. The most significant one is the group around Hudson's Bay, where researchers found that 25% of the population had declined. Since that's practically in America's back yard, well people focused on that. And if you believe as Al Gore does that the arctic ice will be entirely gone by 2006 2007 2008 2009 well, one of these days, then the typical habitat of the polar bear will greatly change and their usual diet will be stressed, if not eliminated. Which suggests that, were they unable to adapt, the bears would necessarily begin to die off.

So the Bush administration declared the bears "threatened" which basically means they might be in some danger at a future undetermined time. No one really knows how the bears would do if the ice melted, they'd likely be pretty hot under all that fur and fat, but would they adapt? Who can say? Isn't that what the Darwinian principle of "survival of the fittest" is about? That if you cannot adapt to your changing environment, then you are weak and supplanted by other, more robust species?

And that assumes the arctic is vanishing, which is actually false. The truth is, 1000 polar bears are permitted for hunters each year in Canada. WWF claims that climate change will wipe out 30% of the population of these bears (still higher than their 1970 population) in 45 years - but mere hunting will wipe out 45,000 in the same time period, seven times as much as the mythical climate change casualty rate of bears. Just cutting back on hunting would negate the presumed damage of climate change. So even if the global warming fears are revealed to be true, polar bears are still not in danger.

This one is a point I've pounded quite a bit in the past, but its worth putting in the series, just because it is a popular myth and something we're continually told by the media and entertainment industries. School kids grow up thinking that these bears are in danger, they're told by teachers, cartoon shows, school books, movies, backs of cereal boxes, and more that we're running out of Coca Cola's Christmas advertising gimmick. And its a flat out lie.

Noah Wylie has a hilarious mockery of the WWF ads out you can enjoy if you want.

This is part of the Common Knowledge series; things we know that ain't so.

1 comment:

M. E. said...

Finally, someone who doesn't just bow down to everything they are told.