Why National Geographic’s starving polar bear video is so important

If you've seen National Geographic's graphic video of a starving polar bear, you'll know it was a heart wrenching watch. But it raises an important conversation: climate change has never been more real, and scenes like these are only going to get worse...

The video shows a malnourished polar bear scouring the iceless land for morsels of food. After scrounging in a bin, the polar bear, starving and exhausted, lies down to slowly die. The video is utterly heartbreaking, and to see an animal dying this way from reckless human behaviour is a graphic wake-up call.

As polar bears are native to Arctic regions, they’ve been bearing the brunt of global warming for many years now. Rising sea levels and melting ice caps have meant that the natural habitat of these beautiful creatures has changed beyond recognition. Polar bears hunt on ice for their main source of pray – seals – but with no ice, there’s no pray. Marry that with dwindling breeding numbers and you’re left with one word – extinction.

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A report conducted by the World Wildlife Fund in 2016 found that if climate change continues at the same rate, we’ll see a 30% decline in the species by 2050, which is scarily close. It was found that in the summer months, most polar bears showed signs of starvation due to record lows in sea ice coverage. This has driven polar bears more frequently in-land, which is both dangerous for the polar bears and also the humans they come into contact with.

It's predicted that the Artic could become ice-free during the summer months in the not-so distant future. For the ecosystems of colder climates, this couldn't be worse news.

So what can we do about it? Put simply, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Even basic, everyday actions like recycling and using less hot water can contribute to the global effort of slowing down the effects of climate change. Try making it a habit of turning off every light after you leave a room, or being more cautious of zoning out in the shower – every little helps.

  • Hop on a bike. If you drive to avoid having to use public transport, hop on a bike when you can to reduce your carbon footprint. Cycling can actually be super fun and is also a good daily dose of exercise.
  • Retire your hairdryer. Ok, hair drying isn’t always an option when you have to be out of the house in 10 minutes but on weekends and evenings, opt for a microfibre towel or air dry to save energy.
  • Dry your clothes outside. By means of conserving energy, a small load of clothes can just as easily be dried outside than in the tumble drier – and if the sun is beaming it will likely take half the time.
  • Plant a tree. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen – so if you have any space in your garden, plant yourself a tree! You’ll get an immense feeling of pride as you watch it grow into something beautiful.
  • Save the heat. Before you blast the heating in the middle of spring, ask yourself is it really cold enough to turn up the heat, or are you just after a little extra comfort? If the latter is true, invest in some thick blankets and fill up the hot water bottle instead.
  • Adopt a Polar Bear. Got a birthday coming up? This is the ultimate feel-good pressie idea. By helping protect polar bears you’re contributing to the protection of the artic food chain, and you’ll also get periodic updates on how your new fuzzy friend is doing.

Over in Antartica, conservationists have begun identifying the last ice areas to preserve them from the wrath of global warming – but the woeful reality of climate change for polar bears like the one featured in National Geographic’s video should be the wake-up call we need to live more sustainably, for the good of our beautiful planet.

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