Christmas Cheer for Climate Deniers. Polar Bear Starves

December 18, 2017

Lump of coal for him.


As his boat came around a corner last August, Paul Nicklen spotted what at first looked like a white blanket draped over a rock. And although he kept his distance, it soon became clear the blanket was not actually a blanket at all; it was a polar bear — one Mr. Nicklen thought was surely dead.

The polar bear, though, was not dead — at least not yet. And when it managed to stand up, Mr. Nicklen, a visual storyteller, snapped a photo. When he published it on Instagram, the image garnered such a strong response that he knew he needed to return with other members of his conservation organization and the proper filming equipment. Mr. Nicklen, 49, wanted to show people what a starving polar bear really looked like — he wanted to make a scientific data point something real.

So he and a small group came back to the spot in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago about two days later. Then they watched: as the polar bear rummaged through a rusted trash can, as it nibbled at an old snowmobile seat, as its eyes turned downcast, its spirit defeated.

“It rips your heart out of your chest,” Mr. Nicklen said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “As soon as he did a slow stand on his feet, everybody on the team just started crying.”


Biologists agree that as ice cover continues to decrease, there will be a significant drop in the polar bear population, which according to federal wildlife officials stands at about 26,000 globally. A 2015 assessment projected a reduction of over 30 percent in the number of polar bears by 2050.

“Polar bears are built for a feast-or-famine type of eating,” said Elisabeth Kruger, an arctic wildlife program officer with the World Wildlife Fund. “But when that period of fasting gets too long, it can put them on the brink.”

Polar bears have been labeled threatened under the Endangered Species Act act since 2008. They are among the largest members of the bear species and prey heavily on seals.

All of which makes the viral images of a fur-and-bones polar bear particularly striking. The bear Mr. Nicklen and his team documented was stuck on land, its muscles atrophied by continuing starvation, and apparently on the edge of death.

One would have to do “a lot of specific investigating” to determine the cause of suffering for a particular polar bear, Ms. Kruger said, but what is captured in Mr. Nicklen’s photo “is one of the ways polar bears die.”

Most of the feedback Mr. Nicklen has received on social media appears positive, if twined with sadness. (The viral video of the polar bear, he noted, has been slowed from normal speed.) But he has also received blowback from some who have complained he did not do enough to help.

“People assume you’re just coldhearted,” he said. “Of course we’re upset.” But feeding the polar bear would not only prolong its misery, he said, it would have been illegal. And “for me to take a gun up to that polar bear and kill it, now you’re looking at jail.”

This is not the first time a downtrodden polar bear has captured the hearts of humans. After all, they are “incredibly charismatic,” Ms. Kruger said, and “big, white, fluffy creatures.”


7 Responses to “Christmas Cheer for Climate Deniers. Polar Bear Starves”

  1. cagedunn Says:

    I can’t put a like to this, I can’t give it a rating. I can, however, say this: these issues, these pictures, these real life disasters need to be seen by all. Everyone. Imagine this is your life. Imagine what will happen when the seas become unproductive. Does anyone think removing all the life from the oceans won’t indicate the rest of the planet is dead? Us, too. We rely on the whole ecosystem for our life. Every last bit of it, plankton, mozzies, bears and all.
    Please, do something – yell and scream, post and publish, keep pushing at the people who say they’re in the job for the benefit of all. Make them do it, make them see, make them feel the consequences of not knowing the difference between profit and plunder, between capitalism and democracy, between …
    I wrote a story, what will you do to make your voice heard?

  2. […] via Christmas Cheer for Climate Deniers. Polar Bear Starves | Climate Denial Crock of the Week […]

  3. But ya know Polar Bear numbers are exploding, just visit any of the not fake news sites such as Daily caller or Breitbart

  4. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    This is probably also the fate of a billion humans in a 4 °C world.

  5. dumboldguy Says:

    Actually, many of the polar bear populations appear to be doing fairly well. Some are not, and this one obviously is a member of one of those. We don’t have really good numbers, but it matters not—-if the arctic ice continues on its present path, most will be gone in 30 or 30 years. So be it, life ends for individuals and species go extinct.

    I’m more concerned with Andy Lee’s “billion humans” in a 4 degree warmer world.

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