Josie Martin's painting of a polar bear perched on top of the earth.

© Josie Martin

12/10/2019 6:44:05 PM

Kids, Conservation, and the Power of Youth

By Janet Stringer, Manager of Donor Relations

Supporting conservation initiatives and a healthy climate future is a responsibility we all share. Whether taking action by voting for politicians who support renewable energy resources, working with community leaders to initiate new carbon-saving programs, or spearheading workplace programs that encourage carbon reduction, there is something that each and every one of us can do.

At Polar Bears International, the best part of my work is learning about the inventive ways people are contributing to polar bears and their future by finding creative opportunities to use their talents to influence their friends, family, and communities to work together for a healthy climate future.

My favorite stories come from the children who do such incredible things. I’m often left wondering, “Where do these kids come from?” Their stories inspire me. Their drawings make me smile. And their selflessness makes me want to be a better person.

Recently, we were contacted by Ember and Azalea, who were so moved by a documentary on polar bears that they decided to ride their bikes from New Hampshire to New York City in order to attend the climate march in September, raising money along the way to help purchase solar panels for their school. Ember and Azalea, who are 9 and 7, are making big things happen, just like their hero, Greta Thunberg. They thought if Greta could sail across the Atlantic for the Global Climate Strike, they could ride their bikes over 200 miles to show their support. And just like that, a spark of hope in Sweden started a fire across the world.

I also think about Josie Martin, who each year paints an animal portrait that she offers to those who donate to her chosen charities through her PayPal Giving page. Last year, Josie selected Polar Bears International as her charity and raised $2,299 to support our efforts to conserve polar bears. Josie says, “If we do nothing, by the time I turn 44 years old (2050), scientists suggest that two-thirds of polar bears will be extinct. If we do nothing within my lifetime (by 2100), all wild polar bears will be extinct. Extinction is forever so we must take action now!” Anyone over the age of forty can tell you that twenty-one years is an incredibly short period of time. It passes in the blink of an eye and to consider the loss of two-thirds of polar bears in that time frame provides context for the sense of urgency these young people feel.

And I can’t forget the students of Escola Daina-Isard in Spain who continue to astound me with their talent as they develop innovative media projects for our Project Polar Bear program. I’m always left wondering how they come up with the ideas. These kids sing songs, write books, and create videos that are better than many of the film projects I worked on in film school! Recently, they completed a very imaginative book called “Nanuc” that tells the story of polar bears and the threats they face. Filled with hand-drawn images that are layered on top of each other and photographed to give the appearance of dimension, this book is unlike anything I have seen.

I also can’t pass up an opportunity to share a story about Ella and Sadie who, in the interest of full disclosure, are a part of our Polar Bears International family. Ella, who is the daughter of our programs manager, Marissa Krouse, and her cousin, Sadie, wanted to do something to raise awareness about melting sea ice and the impacts on polar bears. So, on Arctic Sea Ice Day, they spent the day selling lemonade and cookies while sharing information about polar bears and how people can help save their habitat. It was so much fun to receive live-updates on the girl’s success and I couldn’t imagine anyone passing up the opportunity to hear what they had to say.

And last, but not least, I would like to talk about the students of Davis Schools in Davis, California who have organized a Polar Pedal event for the past three years in honor of International Polar Bear Day in February. This month-long event encourages young people to reduce carbon by walking, biking, carpooling, or scootering to school. Last year, they logged 6,425 human-powered trips and counted an additional 300 carpool trips that saved nearly 4.5 tons of CO2 from entering the earth’s atmosphere. Their dedication is fuel for my soul as I continue to work toward reducing my own carbon footprint.  

The stories are endless, but they come together to create a bottomless well of inspiration that motivates me and my colleagues in the more difficult days. It’s true that the topic of climate change can feel very overwhelming, but the next time you feel despair, I hope you will think of these kids and understand why it is urgent to act now. These kids prove to us that all we need to do is roll-up our sleeves and get to work. Stop thinking in terms of can’t … just do! Because for them, there is no other option.

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