Plight of Polar Bears Affects Us All

Polar bears, like the one pictured here, have now been put upon the endangered species list due to global warming. In fact, fears for their survival have become so real by prominent environmentalists, that it has now been predicted that these Arctic carnivores may become extinct in the wild by the year 2050. The Arctic ice shelf, the bear’s hunting grounds, has been receding steadily for the past 30 years. The bears depend on large ice floes for both hunting and to bare their young, which occur in the spring. It has now been estimated that since the late 1970’s the total area of summer polar ice has declined more than 20 per cent and is accelerating each year at a much faster rate.

Polar Bear PlightPolar bears depend on a steady diet of Arctic ringed seals, walruses and fish, all of which are declining or moving to other locations further north. With a decline in these food sources, polar bears will have no choice other than either to adapt to their new environmental reality – or die. And that ‘adaptation’ may force the bears to add another possible food source to their hunting forays – Man. Eskimos and other indigenous people who also live in the arctic regions, and depend on the same food sources as the polar bears may find themselves on ursus maritumus’ shopping list, as the bears loose their natural fear and apprehension and begin to approach villages and other places of human habitation to find food. People working in the far north, including oil well drillers, scientists, and other people may also be at risk, especially if they are out alone and far away from others.

Even now, with a shrinking habitat, polar bears are coming closer to settlements and are even raiding garbage dumps in search of food. While most bears are omnivorous by nature, polar bears have formerly relied on the food chain to receive their traditional diet of fresh seal meat as well as occasional whale carcasses. With present changes in their natural environment, there have even been reports of bears attacking baby beluga and narwhal whales, previously a rarity.

It’s a sad fact that many folks aren’t concerned about polar bears becoming extinct, like the pre-historic cave bear did, as long as enough remain in captivity in zoos (like the orphan baby bear in the Berlin Zoo). The bears may possibly even become another exhibit in places such as city aquariums or marine world exhibits, like beluga whales and sea otters. The truth is, though, is that the demise of such animals may be an omen in regards to our long term future on this planet – often called an island we cannot leave.

The threatened demise of ursus maritimus is only one example of the dangers that global warming is bringing upon the earth. If most of the Arctic polar ice cap melts, seas will rise at least 3 to 7 meters and most coastal cities, even those in the Mediterranean area, will find themselves under water. Hundreds – perhaps thousands of other plant and animal species will also be endangered and this will eventually threaten the future of Mankind as well. As long as fossil fuels continue to be consumed at the present rate, as is evident in many large cities, the effects of global warming, including famine and violent weather patterns, will create havoc to all of the inhabitants of our planet. There still may be time to reverse some of this threat by an international concerted effort to develop alternative energy sources. If this doesn’t happen, then not only will the polar bear one day be no more; even Mankind itself may find itself as being on the endangered species list.