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Why Should We Save Polar Bears?

Polar bears play an important role in the ecosystem as a top of the line predator.
Saving the polar bear, and their habitat, may depend on finding more environmentally-friendly energy sources.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 December 2014
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Polar bears are beautiful animals that serve an important part of the ecosystems in which they live. They can also be frightening, and have been known to hunt and kill humans. Polar bears have lost a great deal of habitat to human incursion, and they are losing range and territory to the effects of global warming, which in particular affects the amount of sea ice present.

An ecosystem is highly dependent on all of its parts, and removing even a single species can have potentially drastic consequences. Polar bears are an apex or top of the line predator in areas where they live. They feed on seal, fish and native populations of deer. Several other scavenging carnivores depend at least in part on the kills of polar bears. The failure to save polar bears might result in loss of species like the Arctic fox, which is currently not endangered.

Additionally, all large predators perform a very important function in their habitat: helping to regulate and control the populations of other species. When an animal group loses its natural predators, overpopulation, sickness and mass die offs can result. Moreover, overpopulated groups can have a direct result in underpopulating other groups. A huge boom in population of Arctic seals would have a direct effect on the prey of seals, and could reduce numbers of certain types of fish and crustaceans.

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This could have a direct effect on humans, who might have to compete with Arctic seals for food supplies from fish. If people want a more people-centered reason to save polar bears, the lack of polar bears could ultimately affect human food supply and commercial fishing industries. The idea that no species, including humans, lives without depending on others might be the most vital human reason to save this species.

With many arguments existing for why we should save polar bears, there is still another question in play: can they be saved? This is a matter that scientists debate because of what appears to be rapid degradation of the polar bears' environment in recent years due to warming temperatures. In fact, the US Geological Survey has alarming predictions about humankind's ability to rescue the species before it fully declines. If the bears cannot adapt to changing climates, they might face almost total extinction before the end of the 21st century, with about 66% of the animals disappearing by 2050.

There are some things that may help slow warming trends and help delay extinction of polar bears. These include things like finding energy sources that don’t release greenhouse gases and not making any more incursions on polar bear territory that is still stable. Drilling for oil or natural gas in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) might accelerate destruction of this vital species and is looked upon by most environmentalists as a surefire way to subvert any attempts to save polar bears and other endangered or at risk species.

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Glasshouse
Post 3

@ Georgesplane- You are absolutely right. When we lose animal species because of our actions and desires, we lose access to vital resources. For example, the loss of most of the world’s shark population has led to imbalances in the ocean food chain. Adding to this problem is the overfishing of other ocean species. This puts a strain on the billion plus people who depends on seafood as their main source of protein.

What happens when a sixth of the world’s population is starving? Forty percent of the world’s human population lives within 60 miles of the ocean. What happens when these populations begin to migrate inland and need to share our resources, due to loss of a food source and sea levels rising?

Extinction of the polar bears will only prove that the human population has not been able to establish the link between the resources we use and the environment we take them from. If we do not make sacrifices in our lifestyle now, we will end up sacrificing entire human populations in the future.

Georgesplane
Post 2

@ Fiorite- All of the extinctions and near extinctions of species are beginning to put pressure on human populations around the world. Deforestation, climate change, and over grazing of marginal lands are destroying habitats around the world, causing wide spread desertification and the famine and violence that comes with it.

Darfur, China's border with the Gobi, Australia, Greece, Spain, and many other areas around the globe are suffering from the effects of desertification. In some regions, desertification is an underlying cause to genocide, in others it is a cause to economically debilitating wildfires, but everywhere the effects on humans are real.

What is killing the polar bears is facilitating climate change, which in turn instigates problems all over the world. As the article stated, polar bears are on the endangered species list due to encroachment on their habitat by mining operations, and melting sea ice. Human activity plays a major role in both cases.

Fiorite
Post 1

This article has it all right. “Saving the polar bears” is about more than saving a species. Making a concerted effort to save the polar bears would be symbolic of humanity making a concerted effort to save itself. The polar bear’s natural habitat is spread across the borders of five nations, so saving the polar bears requires cooperation.

People tend to think that global warming is only an environmental problem. What people tend to forget is we are still heavily dependent on our environment. Even though more than half of the global population spends every waking moment wandering around concrete cocoons, we rely on "nature" to supply us with food, medicine, energy, raw materials, and rich cultural influences.

Every time we cause the extinction of a species, we are limiting our species. No species in history has survived after wiping out its food sources or resources if you will. Polar bears are just one species, but they are an apex predator in a long line of many species becoming extinct due to anthropogenic causes.

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