Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Frolicking penguins, drowning bears

Most mornings I start my day with a cup of coffee and the New York Times on the web. Yesterday was no different. Headlines were as expected, including the heartening news that Caroline Kennedy would seek Hillary's senate seat. Perhaps a return to an old, noble, and inspiring World Order.

Then I noticed the blue-green picture on the side-bar. An image of a heartwarming glass sculpture of a mother polar bear and two cubs standing happily on a stable, solid glassy ice-shelf. Steuben glass. $1975, available at a holiday discount of 15%, for only $1678.75

The description went on to say
Recognized as a symbol of environmental preservation, the majestic Polar Bear is totally adapted to life in the sub-zero artic, often traveling alone over miles of sea ice in search of food or a mate. Mother bears nurture their young through an extended period, teaching them skills needed to survive in an unforgiving climate. The embodiment of power and perseverance, these noble animals are the perfect gift for devoted mothers and all who love nature. Collect all three members of the bear family to arrange on base for changing tableaux of artic life.

It was, the ad mentioned cheerfully, part of the "Frolicking Penguins" series of sculptures.

This is not the Arctic I know today. Polar bears are drowning and dying in the Arctic that I know. There is little frolick in vanishing ice. One day earlier, the NY Times ran an article about biologists who darted a female bear and found that she was lactating--but was also in heat, which meant that she had lost her cubs. The bear was wet. She had swum a long, long distance. Whether the cubs died of drowning or some other cause, we can't know. But we do know they are gone. Bears have been documented swimming 35 MILES from land or the nearest ice.

Nor are penguins "frolicking." Of the 16 known species, 12 are in precipitous decline, including the Emperor Penguin, icon of the Antarctic. In the past 50 years, their populations have declined by 50%. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists three penguin species as endangered, seven as vulnerable, which means they are "facing a high risk of extinction in the wild," and two more as "near threatened.

Please Steuben. The time for cuteness is over. The time to provide a fantasy gift of cuddly, happy bears "to all who love nature" is done. Instead of Frolicking Penguins, try the "Critically Endangered Species" series, or maybe "Endangered by Climate Change but We Don't Give a Damn (as long as we can make money and open up the Arctic to shipping and drilling!!)" Series.

(And, please, Steuben, learn to spell "Arctic".)

Today's arctic, especially for bears and penguins, is a place of desperation. Of drowning cubs. Of starving bears. Of melting ice and rapidly shifting climates.

The Steuben sculpture, including it's "Frolicking Penguins" series, makes a mockery of the pain of the entire Arctic ecosystem. Are these people uncaring, or just plain stupid? Deny climate change all you wish. You cannot deny the stark, painful reality of drowning, starving bears.


Anonymous Alan Gregory said...

Well sad in that closing line. And I can't fathom that it has already been two years since Carolina Kennedy was flirting with the idea of seeking Hillary's seat in the Senate.

September 12, 2011 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

You dummy. No species of penguin live in the arctic.

February 17, 2014 at 8:36 AM  

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