Polar Bears International

11/7/2011 1:41:42 PM

What a Week! (1)

During my past years in Churchill, I spent most of my time in town editing and producing short videos to convey the science of polar bears and the climate change that threatens the species. This year, for various reasons, I'm spending most of my time out on Tundra Buggy® One during the day-and at the Tundra Buggy Lodge at night.

During the day I help BJ Kirschhoffer of PBI, undisputed captain and master of all things technical in and around Buggy One. Each day, we broadcast videconferences and webcasts that bring the tundra and the polar bears into classrooms literally around the world as part of PBI's Tundra Connections program. We also get to drive the Polar Bear Cam that PBI and Frontiers North Adventures are streaming live in partnership with explore.org. Plus we've filmed interviews for CBC and Reuters and streamed a live panel discussion to CNN.com! Wow. What a week!

Tundra Connections panelists
Tundra Connections panelists from Week Two.

But what I really remember are the other animals with which we share this space. The first Saturday we were lucky enough to have a skinny but curious bear come over to our buggy and sit and watch us. We saw an arctic fox hunting for lemmings. We saw a gyrefalcon rocketing after ptarmigan, flushing them out in streaks of white. We saw the rising sun shine over the horizon through blowing snow as male polar bears sparred just meters from our cameras. I got to film all this and claim I was working.

Close up of polar bear face

Yet-and this happens every year-I forced myself to step back from the camera and just watch. It's easy to get caught up in watching, in enjoying the visual spectacle we see in our TVs, computer monitors, or viewfinders, but this isn't a television show. It's real and it's important and when those skinny bears come up to the buggy and look me in the eye, I know that my actions are contributing to the length of their fast-and this makes me want to do more to reach out and help them. It makes me want to find ways to reduce my carbon footprint even further. It makes me want to write that letter to my congressman, to engage in community projects, to support green businesses, and to encourage my friends and family to do more themselves because the problem doesn't begin in the Arctic, it begins at home, and ultimately that's where the solution lies as well.

Photos by Henry Harrison.

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