10/1/2015 2:37:19 PM

Climate Alliance – Where are they now? {Philip Fensterer}

As part of our 10-year anniversary celebration of Polar Bear International's Climate Alliance, we will be highlighting a few of our 248 graduates throughout the fall. Check back every week to see what our grads are doing to take action on climate.

Philip Fensterer is a zookeeper at the Oregon Zoo in Portland where he takes care of many species, including polar bears. Philip is a member of the American Association of Zoo Keepers Conservation Committee and recently volunteered to staff the PBI booth at the AAZK conference. He is also a graduate of PBI's 2011 Leadership Camp (a predecessor of Climate Alliance).

There are two moments that stand out for Philip as pivotal in the way he thinks about conservation. Both took place on a Tundra Buggy® during Leadership Camp.

One, "The group was instructed to put our face in the window of the buggy and close our eyes. To feel the air on our face, to smell the tundra, to hear the wind.... to commit this to memory, in recognition that it is destined to change unless we take action," Philip recalled.

Second, "On the Tundra Buggy Lodge, we observed one bear passing by that looked especially thin and fragile. I felt very sorry for that bear. It looked so hungry as it went along turning over rocks hoping for any tiny morsel. I would not want to ever have to experience that pain of hunger and I don't want these bears to either, not to the unnatural extreme that they do now anyway."

Those experiences out on the tundra motivated Philip to start Cycle for Change, an event designed to encourage green transportation alternatives and to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change.

The 100-mile bike ride is just part of the campaign. Philip also encourages PBI Arctic Ambassador Center zoos to participate in the Bike Commute Challenge, a friendly workplace-against-workplace challenge to see who can tally the most bike miles during the month of September. There are more than ten bike commute teams at zoos across the United States. As of September 27, 2015, Cycle for Change bike commute teams from Louisville, Columbus, Lincoln Park, and Oregon have biked more than 5,550 miles!

Philip's goal for Cycle for Change is to "get 100 percent participation in the May bike commute event, from all PBI Arctic Ambassador Centers—and to have this participation shared with the ambassador center communities who, in turn, will be inspired to get out of their cars."

The Oregon Zoo, where Philip works, is an important PBI partner in animal care and collaborative research, plus community action. Showing their commitment, this year the zoo created a new position: Conservation Action Program Coordinator.

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