Thursday, February 27 is International Polar Bear Day, celebrated annually by Polar Bears International. On this day, everyone is invited to join in celebrating it as a day of action to reduce carbon emissions by taking the Thermostat Challenge—adjust your thermostat a few degrees (up or down, depending on where you live or the season) to show your commitment to greenhouse gas reductions.
Polar Bears International is the world’s leading polar bear conservation group—dedicated to saving polar bears by saving their sea ice habitat. In 1992, Polar Bears Alive was started by wildlife photographer Dan Guravich, a Canadian native internationally known for his work with polar bears, when he formed a conservation organization comprised of polar bear enthusiasts. Dan served as the first president and remained chairman of the board until his death in 1997. In 2002, Polar Bears Alive became Polar Bears International under the leadership of founders Robert and Carolyn Buchanan.
How Does Adjusting the Thermostat Help Polar Bears?
Saving energy produced by carbon-based fuels reduces carbon emissions and can slow and even reverse global warming, which causes sea ice to melt. Polar bears require sea ice for reaching their primary food sources-seals. Their lives are an endurance event that continues to become more and more challenging.
Polar bears have a range throughout the arctic region surrounding the North Pole that depends upon the ice pack of the Arctic Ocean and the land fast ice of surrounding coastal areas. Bears will travel as much as 600 miles in a season, north and south, as ice melts and freezes. Bears remain on islands or coastlines with land fast ice, drift on ice flows, or get stranded on land during summer, where they are forced to endure warm weather.
Polar bears are the largest land carnivore in the world and prefer seals but will also hunt walruses, sea birds and their eggs, small mammals and fish. They will also scavenge on carrion of seals, walruses, or whales. They consume the skin and blubber first and the rest is often abandoned until other polar bears or arctic foxes scavenge the leftovers. Polar bears swim up to 100 miles non stop and over several days, and at an average speed of 6 miles per hour. On land they can run as fast as 40 mph. You are not going to out swim or outrun a polar bear.
At the Ecotone Exchange, we are emphasizing positive stories of the environment. The positive focus of this story is that we can make a difference for polar bears. We have the power to impact the future for them, and other life that is adversely affected by the effects of increased greenhouse emissions. Two up, two down seems like a very small change, but when millions of us adjust our thermostats we are collectively proclaiming our love for the planet through action that yields results. So put on a sweater or shed a layer and adjust your thermostat up or down by two degrees for polar bears.
In this video, Dr. Steven Amstrup, PBI Senior Scientist, discusses whether there will be any polar bears left in 50 years. He shares some dire possibilities, but also offers some words of hope.