Polar Bears and Climate Change: Hear from a Polar Bear!

I’m the poster animal for climate change!

How Climate Change Affects Polar Bears

Hello, my name is Ursula. I am a polar bear. While it is flattering to be the poster “animal” for climate change, it just plain sucks to be a polar bear in this day and age. Don’t get me wrong, as I am very grateful to be alive. But life has gotten so much harder than when I was a cub. I was one of three triplets for goodness sakes! Food and mom’s milk was plentiful, and we cubs had plenty of time to play wrestle. When I give birth now, I am lucky if even one of my cubs survives.

The smell of change is in the air. There used to be a clean and cool scent that permeated the Arctic air. I especially liked it when that smell included the faint whiff of newborn seals! Now I sense restlessness, and the air smells foul, which hampers the scent of my prey.

How can humans doubt that climate change is happening right under their noses…oh wait, humans have a poor sense of smell compared to me, that must be why they don’t get it! In any case, climate change affects my every waking moment when the ice is around. Sea ice melts seasonally, but the ice season is much shorter now due to the environment warming. Sometimes the ice is gone before the newborn seal pups are born. Not good for them, and especially not for my tummy!

I love to swim, which is why I am a marine mammal. While I can swim for hours (up to 61 miles/100km), I would prefer not to! It would be nice to have the ice platforms closer together. Then I can conserve my precious energy hunting the fewer seals left! There are fewer seals not just because the ice is melting earlier in the season, but also because humans are overfishing many of the fish the seals eat.

Also see How Seals are Affected by Climate Change
and How Sea Otters Fight Climate Change

For more on climate change and polar bears, visit National Wildlife Federation

Ollie the Octopus on International Cephalopod Awareness Days and the State of the Oceans

Ollie the Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Wow, it’s already International Cephalopod Awareness Days again! (see my post from last year’s Octopus Day about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Here are the Cephalopod Awareness Days we are celebrating: October 8 is Octopus Day (my favorite!), October 9 is (Chambered) Nautilus Day, October 10 is Squid and Cuttlefish Day, October 11 is Myths and Legends, and October 12 is Fossils and Extinct Species (Vampire Squid fit here as “living fossils”, they have been in the news lately, perhaps you have heard that they eat feces and corpses in the deep sea?)

In honor of Octopus Day, I thought I would go over the “State of the Oceans.” Since I’m no orator (I have no vocal cords), you’ll have to settle for my thoughts.

Right now there are 3 major issues facing the ocean today:

1. Global Warming
2. Pollution
3. Overfishing

Whether or not you believe global warming is currently happening, or that it is humans that are causing it, the effects of global warming have been shown over geologic time (i.e. longer than humans have inhabited the earth). Global warming causes seawater temperatures to rise, which can have devastating effects on all wildlife, especially on corals. For more on coral bleaching see my last post.

Due to global warming, sea level rises faster than usual due to the melting of the polar ice caps. Ocean acidification occurs because of all the extra carbon dioxide that the ocean absorbs, and it causes seawater to become more acidic (like soda or orange juice). It mainly affects those animals that have calcium carbonate skeletons, especially the plankton at the bottom of the food chain. For more on that read Terry the Pteropod’s post on ocean acidification.

Pollution comes in many forms, including chemical (like fertilizer runoff and industrial waste), and physical (like garbage or silt). Garbage is the most insidious form of pollution in the oceans. It consists mainly of plastic in all shapes and forms. Plastic never biodegrades, and all the plastic that has ever been produced is still around today (unless it was incinerated). For more, read my previous post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Overfishing is happening all around the world in all the world’s oceans. Every single country that fishes is catching more fish than can be replaced by the birth rate of new fish. This means that most marine animals eaten as seafood are being fished unsustainably! For more information on overfishing, please watch the documentary The End of the Line.

Once again, I’m out of time. I’ll be back soon to discuss more pressing ocean issues. Please hug a cephalopod today! Or at least abstain from eating us or buying our shells (see Shelley the chambered nautilus’ post), thank you!!