Financial Meltdown Mirrored at North Pole

by Val Germann

The world’s financial markets and “The Top of the World” are exhibiting a frightening similarity as winter ends: both are melting down.   In a few days the G-20 nations will sit down for a talk as the planet’s flagship currency, the U.S. Dollar,  liquefies around their ankles.  That sinking feeling has to be shared by the world’s polar bears, forced onto land and even to cannibalism by the liquefaction of the Arctic’s ice.  As a contributor to a current article on the TERRADAILY website says:

“We don’t have hard evidence about climate change but we have evidence about the numerous symptoms of climate change on polar bears.”

And those symptoms are very bad news indeed, starting with a continuing decrease in the size and weight of the bears, down more than ten percent over the last quarter-century.   One cause of this sad decline could well be the fact that the bear’s hunting season is three weeks shorter than it was in 1980.  Another is that the loss of sea ice is forcing the bears to swim ever farther in pursuit of seals, their primary food.

Even more disturbing is a new and dangerous behavior on the part of pregnant  bears:

Faced with the growing uncertainty concerning the ice, pregnant polar bears are increasingly denning on land, researchers have noticed.  In northern Alaska, two-thirds of bears now choose to den on land in order to give birth early in the year, an inverse proportion of what was observed a few years ago.  “They are refugees rather than immigrants. This is not a chosen exile, this is a forced exile,” Derocher told AFP.

The bears are much more vulnerable on land than on ice and their food sources farther away.  But even more shocking, and revealing, is the following change in polar bear behavior:

Climate change also appears to have altered the bears’ behavioural patterns.  Several recent incidents of cannibalism in Alaska have observers worried.  “We knew of polar bears killing and eating other polar bears,” Steven Amstrup, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told AFP.  “But the difference was that this time the polar bears were clearly deliberately hunting other bears, attacking for example females in their denning area” in northern Alaska, he said.

It surely cannot get much worse than that, attacking and killing the pregnant females of your own kind.  The future for the world’s polar bears must be bleak indeed if this behavior does not stop, and soon.

But that is not likely to happen because, as one expert said:

“Any of these symptoms taken alone might not be so worrying but seen in their totality it shows a bleak picture of how climate change is impacting polar bears already now,” said Geoff York, a polar bear expert at the World Wildlife Fund.  “And it’s only forecast to get worse,” he said.

And so it may be true that the polar bear is going the way of Lehman Brothers, or that particularly ursine financial entity — Bear Stearns.  Those companies were “eating their own,” too, just as the polar bear seems to be doing, most likely with similar ultimate results.

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About Val

I am a long-time teacher of science and astronomy with a strong interest in resource conservation and the environment.
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