International Polar Bear Day
International Polar Bear Day on February 27 raises awareness of the issues facing polar bears and how we can reduce our carbon footprint. Climate change is a huge threat to polar bears’ existence and it’s up to us to take action and protect their future. Polar bears are classified as marine mammals, carrying with them a thick layer of body fat and a water-repellent coat to keep them insulated against the icy cold air and water they encounter on the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean. With their territory melting away beneath them, International Polar Bear Day is an important opportunity for us to remind ourselves what is at stake here, preserving the future of these magnificent mammals.
HISTORY OF INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY
It’s been difficult for scientists to track down the origins of the polar bear but a recent discovery in Norway may have provided the answer. A rare jawbone found on the Norwegian island of Svalbard in 2004 allowed scientists to estimate that the species first walked the planet around 150,000 years ago.
Indigenous cultures have lived in the Arctic and hunted polar bears for thousands of years, contributing towards a balanced Arctic ecosystem. That all changed in the 1700s when hunters from Europe, Russia, and North America began to rapidly cut into the polar bear population. Without any regulations, people were able to trap as many polar bears as they liked, and the species suffered because of it.
By the 1950s things were getting worse due to the increasing use of fossil fuels. The burning of coal, oil, and gas melted the sea ice, causing ocean levels to rise and changing the landscape of the polar bear’s environment. Environmental groups began to push back on the polar bear’s behalf, but their protests often fell on deaf ears as governments ignored their pleas to do more to protect the Arctic and in turn polar bears.
In 1973, the U.S., Denmark, Norway, and the former USSR signed the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat. The agreement regulated commercial hunting and the U.S. government classified polar bears as endangered. The non-profit organization Polar Bears International (PBI) was formed in 1994 and they made it their mission to establish action programs to protect the endangered polar bear.
They introduced the first International Polar Bear Day in 2011 and it has been celebrated every year since.
HOW TO OBSERVE INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY
1.Let your voice be heard
Familiarize yourself with the politics that affect the environment. Research local and national representatives to learn their stance on climate change and keep that in mind when you cast your support. You can also reach out to your representatives and let them know that the environment is important to you.
2.Get creative with it
Polar Bear International has various tools to raise awareness for this cause. You can download attention-grabbing stickers for promotional artwork, and you can change your Facebook profile picture using their temporary profile frame. Use the hashtag #InternationalPolarBearDay and join others in the conversation.
3.Become a community action superhero
Make a difference close to home with community action toolkits that reduce your carbon footprint. The four challenges include information about thermostat conservation, rules for electronics, transportation accounts, and bicycling information. You can make a difference even from home.
FIVE FACTS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY
1.King of the Arctic
Polar bears are the largest carnivorous land mammals on Earth.
A large male polar bear can weigh 1,700 pounds and that can double after a successful hunting season.
Polar bears are primarily meat-eaters and feast on seals.
Female bears have the longest known fasting period of any mammal species about 180 days.
Underneath their white fur is black skin to soak up the sun’s warmth.
WHY WE LOVE INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY
A. We can still make a difference
It’s not too late to turn this dire situation around. Research has shown that if we reduce carbon emissions, the sea ice and polar bears can still recover.
B. Polar bears are vital to the ecosystem
The Arctic ecosystem is fragile and if polar bears go extinct it could start a chain reaction that will be harder to turn around.
C. Global warming is serious
Less ice on the Arctic means less heat is reflected away from Earth and our planet will experience more intense heat waves as a consequence. We also need to consider the impact of rising sea levels, especially in coastal communities, and the damage to our crops.
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