In case you missed it, there's a big controversy brewing in Alaska. A controversy that might affect all of us in a big way. Environmental groups are insisting that polar bears be placed on the endangered species list. Groups like Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Natural Resources Defense Council are threatening to sue if the government fails to "protect" the polar bears. The amazing thing about this is, there are two or three times as many polar bears today as there were 40 years ago.
So what's behind all of this? Chalk it up to the politics of global warming. The green people see white bears as a way to control our economy and our future. Here is how it works.
The arctic ice is melting. Glaciers are retreating and ice flows in the oceans are diminishing. Polar bears use floating ice as a base of operations for hunting seals. Less ice means less bear habitat. Less bear habitat means a future with fewer bears. The "threat" of reduced bear numbers makes the bears an endangered species. Hola! Time for bear lovers everywhere to rally 'round the icebergs.
The premise is, that the ice is melting as a result of greenhouse gases from automobiles and power plants.The bears are drowning because there is less ice for the bears to rest on. Sometime in the future, all of the bears will be fish food. We've got to save the ice to save the bears. To save the ice, we've got to stop global warming. To stop global warming, we've got to turn the calendar back to a pre-industrial world like the nineteenth-century. To turn the calendar back, we've got to give political power to people like Al Gore and his eco-warriors. But until that happens, the next best thing is to declare polar bears an endangered species. That way the tree huggers can tie up our nation's energy production, development, and consumption in the courts under the guise of saving the bears. Under this plan, you can bet that any new power plant, coal mine, oil rig or new car in the lower 48 states will have a significant detrimental effect on the arctic ice and the endangered bears. It's a great way for Greenpeace and their buddies to impose their will and political philosophy on the rest of us.
The problem is, the bears are not endangered. Before seal hunting was heavily regulated in the 1970s, the polar bear population was estimated to have been less than 10,000 bears. Today, after extensive conservation efforts and with more seals to eat, there are as many as 25,000. A good success story, right? But wait, the ice is retreating. The bears might drown - someday. So in spite of having more bears than we've ever had before, we've got to protect them as an endangered species.
As proof of the theory, the bear watchers say they found four dead bears floating in the ocean last year, far from the nearest icepack. They presume the bears drowned from not having any ice to rest on. They don't say the bears were ever autopsied, and a fact often omitted is the dead bears were found shortly after big arctic storms. Being washed out to sea during storms is a hazard the bears have faced for thousands of years.
And then of course, there is the inconvenient truth that global warming - and global cooling - are natural and normal earth cycles. Ice sheets have covered North America several times in the past million years. And each time global warming came along to melt the ice and screw up the bears. Could it be that we are living in the tail end of one of those warming cycles? Could it be that in another 50 or 200 years the cycle might reverse itself and the glaciers come roaring back? It happened many times before we had SUVs and industrial smokestacks.
Now don't get me wrong. I love icebergs and polar bears just as much as the next guy. I'm just not ready to turn out the lights and drive a golf cart to make Greenpeace happy. But I really do admire their compassion for the bears. I just wish they could find the same compassion for cowboys and coal miners.
With all of the pseudo-wilderness being manufactured in the west, we're running out of habitat too.