Environment Forum

Coke’s new look: polar-bear white

Coca-Cola has one of the most recognizable brands on the planet: the red can with the white letters. World Wildlife Fund has an equally eye-catching logo: a black-and-white panda. This week, the two are joining forces to change the Coke can’s look from red to white. It’s meant to raise awareness and money to find a safe haven for polar bears, listed as a threatened species because their icy Arctic habitat is melting under their paws due to climate change.

In a project called Arctic Home, Coke plans to turn 1.4 billion of its soft-drink cans white for the first time in its history, replacing the familiar red with an image of a mother polar bear and two cubs making their way across the Arctic. There will also be white bottle caps on other drinks the company sells. The new look is to show up on store shelves from November 1 through February 2012.

The whole point is to raise money to protect a far-north area where summer sea ice will probably persist the longest, WWF and Coke said in a statement. The Arctic Home plan is to work with local residents to manage as much as 500,000 square miles of territory to provide a home for polar bears.

Coke and polar bears are something of a classic combination, according to the company’s Katie Bayne, who said in a statement that the big white bears were first introduced in the beverage-maker’s advertising in 1922. But the color change is more than tin-deep. Coca-Cola is making an initial $2 million donation to World Wildlife Fund to support polar bear conservation work. Those who buy the white cans can text the package code to 357357 to make individual donations of $1, or donate online at ArcticHome.com. The company plans to match all donations made with a package code by March 15 up to $1 million.

“Polar bears inspire the imagination,” Carter Roberts, CEO and president of WWF, said in a statement. “They’re massive, powerful, beautiful and they live nowhere else except the Arctic. Their lives are intimately bound up with sea ice, which is now melting at an alarming rate. By working with Coca-Cola, we can raise the profile of polar bears and what they’re facing, and most importantly, engage people to work with us, to help protect their home.”

Polar bears, sure. But grolar bears?

RUSSIA/Most people have seen a polar bear, usually at the local zoo. And most zoo-goers know that wildlife advocates worry about the big white bears’ future as their icy Arctic habitat literally melts away as a result of global climate change. But apparently more than the climate is changing above the Arctic Circle.

The new mammal around the North Pole is the grolar bear, a hybrid created when a polar bear and a grizzly bear mate. Then there’s the narluga, a hybrid of the narwhal and beluga whale. The presence of these two new creatures and others produced by cross-breeding may be caused when melting sea ice allows them to mingle in ways they couldn’t before, according to a comment in the journal Nature.

These hybrids could push some Arctic species to extinction, the three American authors said in their Nature piece. They identified 22 marine mammals at risk of hybridization, including 14 listed or candidates for listing as endangered, threatened or of special concern by one or more nations.

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