About four years ago, the U.S. Geological Survey released a projection report stating that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears would be gone by 2050. Their numbers would plummet, stated the report, due to shrinking summer sea ice caused by greenhouse gases. Since that time, images of polar bears have graced water bottles, T-shirts and tote bags. It’s now widely accepted that Ursus maritimus is the poster child for climate change.
Because their likenesses appear on TV screens and spearhead conservation campaigns, chances are that even if you don’t live in tiger or polar bear habitats — where it would at least be possible for you to run into them during your daily life — you would miss them if they disappeared from our planet. But will you mourn the extinction of other species living today if you’ve never heard of them?
If it’s late morning or mid-afternoon where you are, chances are that you’ve already had at least one fleeting thought about dinner tonight. You may be picturing a juicy steak, a tender pork roast or a golden, baked chicken. I doubt that many of you dream about a steaming plate of stink beetles, leeches or cave spiders.
I spent part of the holidays in Los Angeles this year, surrounded by a sea of asphalt and traffic sprawling for hundreds of square miles. Shuttling between relatives and friends on the maze of 14-lane freeways, I soon felt spiritually exhausted by the visual din of billboards, power lines, parking lots, storefronts, neon signs and cars blowing past at 80 mph.
Chances are, you’ll be traveling this holiday season, whether it’s a road trip to Grandma’s house or a cross-country flight to join relatives around the table for a seasonal feast. Though we all know that travel contributes to a warming climate, none of us is likely to call off the family gathering as a means of reducing C02 emissions.
Buying a kayak qualifies as a “big purchase” for my family, and my husband and I recently took that huge step. Although we’ve had a canoe for a long time, this is our first acquisition of this type of silent-sports, aquatic craft.
An island of ice more than four times the size of Manhattan broke off from a glacier in Greenland during the first week of August 2010. It’s drifting across the Arctic Ocean as you read this, probably headed to Canada’s east coast.
In December 2009, scientists reported that the possum is missing from its only home in the mountain forests of northern Queensland, Australia. It hasn’t been seen there in three years. A slight temperature rise (of only 1 or 2 degrees) is likely the reason: The possum typically dies in as few as four or five hours at 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
A friend recently confided in me that she, too, was increasingly alarmed by news of climate change, water shortages, chemicals in our kids’ toys — letting me know she was prepared to take action. From now on, she announced triumphantly, she planned to reuse gift bags. “And if people think that means I can’t afford new ones, well … that’s fine.”
One in five Americans considers himself or herself a “bird watcher,” according to a report published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last summer. Going by the report’s guidelines, in order to qualify as a “bird watcher,” you either had to have taken a trip one mile or more away from home for the primary purpose of watching birds, or you had to have closely observed birds around your house. If you mostly spotted birds passively — while mowing the yard, for example, or while at a zoo — you would not be counted as a “bird watcher.”