11/3/2011 4:16:57 PM
There's a statistic I repeat over and over when I talk to the public about polar bears: two-thirds of the world's polar bears will be gone by mid-century. It's one thing to say the statistic. It's another thing entirely to spend the day watching the bears that will be among the first to disappear. The first bear we saw this morning was lethargic. It lay among the willows, waiting. Nothing but waiting. Waiting for the temperature to drop, waiting for the sea ice to return, waiting for a chance to go out on the ice and make a living. It's hard not to feel sad.
But then there's this: there are children. We did a videoconference this morning with a group of kids in Oklahoma as part of PBI's Tundra Connections program. The kids were so smart, so bursting with polar bear knowledge, and just so . . . young. I think I speak for everyone in Tundra Buggy® One when I say that those kids were a breath of fresh air. It gave me hope that we can turn this thing around.
We finished our work early today and got to head back to the Tundra Lodge in the afternoon to watch a couple of bears sparring. Unlike the bears we'd seen in the morning, these bears were lively; they were having fun. I pulled on my Canada Goose parka and went to the back deck of the buggy, braving the whistling winds. Time stopped as I watched the bears. At some point, I noticed that it was getting harder to see; it was getting darker. I thought a storm was coming in, until my buggymate Kristin came outside and told me that it was 5 p.m. It was getting dark because it was getting late; I had completely lost my sense of time.
I returned to the cozy buggy interior in time to watch the sun set with the rest of the crew. A bright orange sun peaked out from under the clouds, just minutes before it set over the horizon. It was the only sun we'd seen in days, and it was gorgeous.
Most environmental lawyers don't get to hang out with the animals they're trying to protect. As sad as it is to see polar bears on the edge, it's also amazing and unforgettable. I hope I can bring what I've seen here back to Alaska. I hope I can help turn this thing around.