Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Endangered Polar Bear - The Battle To Protect The Arctic Goes On

Endangered Polar Bear - The Battle To Protect The Arctic Goes On

The polar bear world is disappearing. Whether from the consequences of global warming or from intrusion from humans and the hunt for resources such as oil, the endangered polar bear is becoming a target of our intensifying environmental and economic pressures.

As it has been projected that by the middle of this century we will no longer have year-round Arctic sea ice, the polar bear may vanish from the wilderness. Climate change and thinning ice has already lessened, by a few weeks, the time mother polar bears have to feed and collect the fat that sustains them and nourishes their young.

Many scientists feel that the rapid rate of climate change (global warming) underway in the Arctic will lead to resounding effects. In addition to suspected changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, effects on the endangered polar bear is likely to be faster and can already be observed in a thinning of the weight of polar bears and also in the birth and survival rate of the cubs.

Exceedingly susceptible to disturbances, oil exploration affects the endangered polar bear in a number of ways. For instance, when oil exploration equipment drives too close to the dens, it blasts shock waves through the ground as it searches for oil and gas reserves, making the polar bear mother abandon her den and her cubs, disturbing her hunting patterns. Since the cubs do not leave the den until they're 3 months old, when abandoned, they will die.

It is known that 1 bear has died from consuming a toxic substance, due to the constant release of contaminants from petroleum exploration, production and support activities in active oil fields on Alaska's North Slope. That's 1 bear too many!

Although most Americans concur that there is not adequate oil in the Arctic Refuge to compromise the loss of this place, its people and its wildlife, unfortunately the struggle to protect the Arctic carries on in this, the polar bear world.

As more people reside near these areas, they can't help but acquire garbage and, of course, a few polar bears will move in too near when hunting for food, and be killed. The polar bear habitat is shrinking. Extinction of these magnificent creatures, so unparalleled in our world, is almost a certainty.

The combination of pollution moving to the Far North from sources thousands of miles away, along with oil development and global warming, could affect not only the polar bear world but also the entire ecosystem. Thinning sea ice, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change--these components and more are impacting the future of this and many additional vulnerable arctic species. The endangered polar bear is potentially our generation's "canary in the coal mine." Its demise could forecast even larger environmental dangers to come. Polar bears are a national treasure, and their survival depends on us!

By: Frankie Kangas

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