The lumbering beast was great but gaunt
Bedraggled fur it could no longer flaunt
With uneven patches, like a vagabond’s coat
Though beggars would avoid a land so remote
In that vast desolation there are no alms
Even sensitive people seldom have qualms
Or care about the struggle to survive, day-to-day
Of these creatures whose habitat is so far away
But despite the distance, that domain is affected
By the way that we live; you see, we are connected
Humans keep spreading, with growing populations
In many of the world’s developing nations
Competing for and therefore joining forces
To deplete more of the planet’s precious resources
Together with those from industrialised countries
With their many mod cons and well-stocked pantries
They have so much food, it is oft thrown away
Too much on the plate, or it “expired” yesterday
Surplus food all around, discarded without a thought
For those who are hungry, those who have naught
Like the famished creature, adapting to survive
By increasing the length of it’s food-stalking dive
Battling the imperative to take in gulps of air
Staying longer in the sea, prey in range is rare
Stamina sapped, it has lost mighty strength
The summers, for years now, have stretched in length
Traditionally the period to live on fat stored
On it’s fleshy frame, from winter feasting gorged
But the thaw seems eternal, lasting far too long
It can’t survive on berries, body reserves gone
Every failed hunt attempt serves to deplete
The energy it musters – to survive – it must eat!
But nothing is as it should be; no ice, no seals
And back in the lands of screens and ready meals
Some people gasp at images of a starving bear
Get upset in the moment, but most don’t deeply care
Or consider that their lifestyle really does impact
The environment, for others, and that is a fact
While millions of people lacking in education
Awareness and resources don’t reach the realisation.
The majestic Polar Bear thrives in ice and snow
Does it bother you much that they’ve nowhere to go?
Stuck in a habitat where in summer they starve
Winters too are changing, more glaciers calve
Huge icebergs thus freed, to warmer waters drift
Melting on the way, contributing to the shift
Changing temperatures, extremes of drought and flood
Rampant wildfires, fiercer winds, deadly sliding mud
Ravaging buildings and other human construction
Increasingly, more instances of nature’s destruction
We’ve nowhere to go, does that bother you?
Do you think that there’s nothing we can do?
I believe we’re in time, but we have to act now
Put pressure on powers who would disavow
That our way of behaving is belying
Of a species presently destined to dying
An equivalent of the caged canary in a mine
Is fading fast, a stark and startling sign
That the track on which humanity is travelling
Is the very path that will lead to our unravelling
As a species (along with others) we risk extinction
Because of our pathological predilection
Consumption: always wanting and taking more
Mass and crass industrialisation: our fatal flaw.
Inspired by this photograph.
As I wrote, I stayed up to read about polar bears and their predicament, to glean more background information for my poem.
One of the very top hits when I searched, a zoologist’s website, surprised me by her assertions that polar bears are not threatened by climate change – in stark contrast to the consensus view and that of leading scientific researchers who, unlike her, have studied bears in the field.
Digging a little further, I learned that she received monthly payments from The Heartland Institute for several years. I hadn’t heard of them and found that:
In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question or deny the health risks of secondhand smoke and to lobby against smoking bans.:233–34 In the decade after 2000, the Heartland Institute became a leading supporter of climate change denial. It rejects the scientific consensus on global warming, and says that policies to fight it would be damaging to the economy.
I felt so disheartened… as if the widespread ignorance and pervading apathy weren’t a huge enough hurdle – we have multi-million dollar funded interest groups actively working to spread propaganda. They succeed:
…the blog has been widely cited by climate change denying websites, with over 80% citing it as their primary source of information on polar bears. *
I’ll leave this can of worms for another time.
It is so important to check the sources of what one is reading.
From what I have read, the polar bear situation is a nuanced one; there are different communities in a number of geographical areas, each with a varying spectrum of conditions. Consequently, one cannot extrapolate from a given group to make a generalised statement that covers all of them.
However, it is clear that:
- the ice on the planet is melting and this will have dire consequences for humans.
- populations of more and more species of plants and animals – mammals, birds, fish, insects – are dwindling and facing extinction because of human pollution and destruction of habitats.
- greater changes to the planet’s biosphere means that the human species will face extinction also.