Written by Nicole Rimensberger
We have seen photos of polar bears hunting on land devoid of ice – shown as insignificant white flecks against black rock. We have seen photos of polar bears balancing on receding, broken ice, their habitat dissolving around them. Through some very iconic wildlife photography, the polar bear has come to symbolise the effects of an ever-warming climate and the tangible, very visible impact on its habitat.
International Polar Bear Day is celebrated on the 27 February and coincides with the period that polar bear mothers and their cubs are snuggled up in Arctic dens, waiting out the winter. This is also a particularly vulnerable period in a bear’s life, but in many ways, International Polar Bear Day is about so much more than these animals. It is a day that forces us to pause and observe, to look back at the carbon footprint we’ve left – very much a dirty footprint on the once pristine snow.
Non-profit Organisation, Polar Bears International, initiated the day to celebrate these animals and create awareness around climate change. Polar Bear International reports that climate change has resulted in the loss of approximately 50% of Arctic sea ice area since 1979 and an increase of more than 2⁰ C in near-surface air temperatures. Satellite measurements capture the changes of the Arctic sea ice area, which reaches its minimum in September each year. The graph below indicates the change since measurement began in 1979.
Simply put, the world of the polar bear, our world, is changing.
While the plight of the polar bear and its distant habitat might seem disconnected from our daily lives, the issues it indirectly highlights through these animals are not. The day calls for us to make better decisions and take actions that reduce our carbon emissions, whether it is as small as deciding to walk more and drive less, turning the thermostats on our air-cons and heating to a more eco-friendly temperature, or making bigger, greener changes for our homes and businesses.