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The biggest threat to polar bears is us

The majestic polar bear has sadly found its way onto the endangered species list. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), this animal is classed as vulnerable to extinction.

At one time the biggest threat to polar bears was us, and it still is – but now for very different reasons. In the past we hunted them illegally for food, fur and sport. Today, conservationists are concerned about the massive impact on these creatures from the effects of human industrialisation and pollution resulting in climate change.

With so much scientific evidence of climate change, it is astounding this topic can still create an ‘eye roll’ – and that there is still an ongoing debate as to whether climate change is even a thing.

Non-believers argue that the irregular warming of the planet has nothing to do with us. Some say our pollution and Co2 emissions are not the cause of this global issue. This blind defiance that we are responsible continues to stifle the actions required to help slow down the problem. As this absurd debate continues, the world and its inhabitants continue to suffer – including species in the Arctic Circle such as the polar bear.

According to scientists there are approximately 25,000 – 30,000 polar bears (this varies from source to source), and studies show they could all be wiped out by the end of the century.

So, what is causing climate change and how is it affecting polar bears?

According to the Committee on Climate Change (www.theccc.org.uk), scientists have noticed greenhouse gases (i.e. Co2 emissions) have increased dramatically. Apparently, global Co2 emissions from human activity have risen by over 400% since 1950.

This has had a massive effect on our planet – causing severe storms as well as creating milder winters and hotter summers. Other consequences include droughts and famines, fires, tsunamis and rising sea levels.

The consequences of climate change are visibly felt throughout the world
The consequences of climate change are visibly felt throughout the world

As our demand for more ceases to wane, more factories create more Co2 emissions. And as the population continues to increase, more cars appear on our already congested roads and as a result are pumping more pollution into the atmosphere. This adds further to the already established global problem which continues to affect areas of natural importance and significance – like the Arctic Circle.

The Arctic Circle covers approximately 14.5million kilometres and is home to over 5,500 species of animals. Every year the Arctic increases and decreases in size, as vast sections freeze for winter and then thaw for summer. Scientists have been recording these levels since the seventies, and in doing so have discovered in every decade there has been a 13% decrease in the amount of ‘sea ice’ that froze during the winter periods.

They believe this is due to the increase in the world’s temperature caused by greenhouse gasses. Oceans have continuously warmed, stopping this sea ice from forming in the quantities required for the survival of these animals.

But – polar bears desperately need this sea ice. They use it primarily for hunting, not being able to out-swim their main food source – seals. They wait by holes in the ice for seals to come up to breathe, then capture their prey. Studies have shown that a polar bear’s metabolism is much higher than once thought, and therefore they need a larger quantity of seals to survive the summer months. If the sea ice doesn’t form by winter, polar bears are then forced to look on land for other food sources, resulting in a higher chance of starvation and human interaction.

A starving polar bear searches for food
As the problem continues, starving polar bears will sadly become a more common sight

Polar bears also use the sea ice as a dating arena. It is on these vast temporary platforms that partners are found – helping to keep numbers up.
If temperatures continue to rise, the inevitable outcome is that polar bear numbers will decline and eventually disappear.

There’s still time and hope for the polar bear…

A simple Google search of ‘melting glaciers’, reveals a large selection of videos showing huge blocks of ice breaking away from the Arctic land and crashing into the ocean. Although incredible to watch, this footage demonstrates the impact our ‘progress’ is having on nature.

Glaciers are continuing to melt at a rapid rate
Glaciers are continuing to melt at a rapid rate

The seriousness of the situation is so severe that scientists are pleading with world governments to put legislation and laws in place. These laws will restrict and force monitoring of Co2 emissions from anything which creates greenhouse gasses.

Although some scientists are worried we have already passed the point of no return, we must believe they are wrong. Aside from the large factories, we as individuals, can help make a difference – no matter how small.

There are many ways to help reduce our global carbon footprint and lower greenhouse gasses. Examples include:

– recycling
– using solar heating and
– being energy efficient
– building wind farms
– using public transport
– cycling/walking

We should also put continued pressure on the powers that be to enforce strict guidelines for industries to adhere to. Progress should not happen at the cost of our environment.

Using our talent to highlight the plight of the polar bear

As artists, we believe in creating awareness of such important issues. Throughout history artists have used their skills to speak out about current events – and here at CreativeFolk we’re no exception.

Through the power of art, we want to start conversations – making you stop and think, as well as making you want to find out more. One of our artists, Paul Kneen, does exactly that. His work, although thought provoking, is beautiful. In particular, and fitting for this article, we love his ‘Cola Bear’ painting.

'Cola Bear' by Paul Kneen highlights the issue of climate change and global warming as well as pollution.
‘Cola Bear’ by Paul Kneen

‘Cola Bear’ was originally painted for an exhibition Paul was at in London back in September 2017. Stunningly painted in acrylics, it depicts a lonely polar bear floating along the ocean on a discarded Coke can.

Paul explains: “I had been wanting to paint something which highlighted the plight of the polar bear for quite a while, but I couldn’t think of how to get my feelings across and yet still make it beautiful to look at.”

He then remembered the TV ads from when he was younger showing polar bears drinking Coca Cola, and had an idea.

He added: “I thought it would be a great idea to have the crushed can instead of sea ice. Not only does this piece talk about the warming sea temperatures, but it also raises the issue of pollution in our oceans.”

We love how the polar bear looks longingly at its own reflection, and weren’t surprised to hear this piece was sold before the show even opened its doors. Fortunately, we have stunning giclee prints of Cola Bear which capture the true beauty of the original. These are available in A4, A3 and A2 sizes.

All our giclee prints (if you don’t know what a giclee print is – you should read our recent article about them) are printed using archival inks on 310gsm German etching paper. Each one is signed by the artist, and comes with a certificate of authenticity as well as FREE UK delivery.

If you’d like to find out more about climate change and the plight of the polar bear, here’s some great web pages to take a look at:

https://arcticwwf.org/species/polar-bear/
https://polarbearsinternational.org/climate-change/
https://www.carbonbrief.org/polar-bears-and-climate-change-what-does-the-science-say
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/polar-bears-starve-melting-sea-ice-global-warming-study-beaufort-sea-environment/
https://defenders.org/polar-bear/climate-change

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