• Sue McDowell


So while the bears are waiting for ice to form at Churchill, and I wait for holiday glass to come out of my kilns, I also eagerly await my shift on the cameras for PBI/Explore.org each week. It's always been fun to watch the video feed as a regular member of the public, but it's such a thrill, to me, to be scanning the horizon looking for a new bear (or bears) ahead of what the public sees. And then there's the adrenaline that courses in me when I'm trying to keep the camera on a good shot...knowing that, when it gets really busy two things will happen - 1) the camera won't move fast enough for me to get the shot I want to get and 2) there are only several hundred folks watching and counting on me! Lol...these are patient people and it is a thrill to see a wild polar bear no matter how you see it. Even if you aren't there to see them in person in the buggy-packed-freezing-cold north!

Polar Bear International has also been hosting their live chats and there have been, already, some interesting speakers. I encourage you, again, to look at their list of "Tundra Connections" if you want to hear their latest. It's been a tough few years to listen to the science. Dr. Deroche went on the air a while back saying he strongly doubted that there will be any polar bears by mid-century. Yup, by 2050. If I'm lucky, I'll be 88 then. But I don't know that I'll consider myself lucky if I live in a world without polar bears. And this is the week that the US confirmed they are pulling out of the Paris Climate agreement. I find this a naive and short-sighted position. So many countries consider climate change to be definitive. And to recognize the need for social, as well as technical, alternatives. It's embarrassing to be a citizen of the country that once led the environmental movements against acid rain and the ozone depletion and yet puts its head in the sand on something that will be so impactful. We have to take responsibility for the impact we have on our world. An interesting interview I heard this week underscores that - China gets dinged all the time for its emissions....but a high percentage of those are for the transport of their goods to our shores. We have choices we can make every day that affect our future - the butterfly effect in action. I can find only a little relief in the news that governors of many US states have stepped up promising to counter our national position.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not *just* concerned about climate change for the bears. In 2009, Alun Anderson published the book, "After the Ice: Life, Death and Geopolitics in the New Arctic" I remember the growing sense of unease I had rethinking my presumptuous concern about "only" the bears then. Anderson makes clear that as the arctic sea ice recedes, the countries bordering the north have a great interest in the new passageways and relationships that will happen. I wish I could be optimistic about Norway, Russia, Canada, Greenland and the US all working in peaceful alliance for this new melted resource. But I'm not. Particularly not if they are also, simultaneously, working to secure their own flooding ocean-side towns and handle the disruptive change that occurs when humans migrate en masse from less inhabitable land.

I try not to be dystopian. I try to read the science (a great resource for sea ice can be found here). And to imagine what new opportunities will exist and what we can do more of, now, to delay or even, is it possible, reverse, our current path. There have to be more ways to help. Besides just waiting.