Enjoy International Polar Bear Day!
Today, February 27, 2014 is International Polar Bear Day! Celebrate by helping out the mighty ursus maritimus or "sea bear" by turning down that thermostat a degree or two!
What's so special about this bear?
Well, for starters, it is the world's largest carnivore whose place is at the top of the arctic food chain. Adult males can weigh up to 1200 pounds, and the largest polar bear on record was an amazing 2,209 pounds (1001.986 kg). These are smart animals, considered as intelligent as apes. And they play. Research scientist, Alison Ames has seen them stack heaps of plastic pipes, then knock them down in elaborate games. And then there are those amazing paws, that act as snowshoes on the ice, and paddles and rudders in the water. And of course, they are beautiful animals, with their distinctive silhouette, thick white fur, small fur-lined ears, dark brown eyes and black nose. They have serious street cred here on earth, with an origin that dates back to 4.5 million years ago.
If you would like to know more about this remarkable bear that, by the way, is the only bear that is a marine mammal, please visit Polar Bears International . PBI is the world's leading polar bear conservation group.
If you need more convincing how wonderful these bears are, watch these videos on the baby polar bear saved by the Toronto Zoo. Warning: prepare to seriously bond. http://www.torontozoo.com/polarbearcub/?pg=Video
So, Why International Polar Bear Day?
International Polar Bear Day is a way to draw attention to the decline in population for this species. PBI, the organization mentioned above, is dedicated to saving polar bears by saving their sea ice habitat. PBI has issued an International Polar Bear Day Thermostat Challenge! On February 27th (today) adjust your thermostat down two degrees to lower carbon emissions. For more information here The Toronto Zoo is tracking participation with its Bundle up for Polar Bears here
Polar bears and Our Darkening Arctic
As I understand it. In a nutshell, the bright white polar cap serves as a giant reflector for the sun's heat. In other words, it's like a great, big air conditioner for our planet. Carbon emissions cause climate changes that result in dramatic arctic ice loss, over 56,000 square kilometres per year since 1979. The increase in the dark water means less sun reflects back into space, and the earth absorbs more heat. Increased absorbed heat means increased ice loss, which means increased dark water , which means decreased sun reflected, which means increased heat absorbed, and... you get the picture, how the cycle, pardon the pun, snowballs.
Remember our ursus maritimus? This loss of sea ice, and expanding water mass, has a dramatic effect on the survival of the bear, that depends on the sea ice for hunting, feeding and occasionally denning. Some scientists predict this wondrous species will be extinct by the end of the century. Here are just a few of many articles on the subject available.
Articles about bears and the effect of marathon swims between ice flows -
Articles about the darkening arctic -
Arctic Report Card 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5h02Yc6lfA
It's cold in my Toronto area studio with its northern exposure. But I think turning down my thermostat a couple of degrees, and donning my favourite hoodie to stay warm, is an effortless way to offer a little hope for these bears, don't you agree?
If you enjoy polar bear art, and would like to see more -
Here's last year's blog post here on International Polar Bear Day with the meanings of antarctic and arctic, as well as some of my sketches from CRAM Polar Bear World