Global environmental challenges
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.
It has all the signs of a sick good-news/bad-news tale. The bad news is that Earth may be ripe for a mass extinction, where 75 percent or more of the life on the planet vanishes forever.
The good news is it’s unlikely to happen for at least three more centuries.
With the spotlight shining on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the executives sizzling in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, environmental advocates are looking north.
They’re worried that Shell Oil will start drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska before the U.S. government reports on BP’s Deepwater Horizon drill rig disaster. And the environmental groups are not comforted by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s reassurances that no new drilling will take place until the government report is completed by May 28.
The U.S. Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel has just set off for Antarctica where it will deploy a tiny unmanned yellow submarine beneath an ice shelf to seek clues to rising world sea levels, and carry out a series of other research projects. See story here.
Palmer was an explorer and seal hunter who was among the first people to spot Antarctica in 1820 — part of the Antarctic peninsula is named after him.
You probably guessed — both give away identity.
Jane Waterman, a Canadian biologist at the University of Central Florida, is asking any tourist who takes a photo of a polar bear around Churchill, Canada, to send it to her to help study the bears. Here’s her website.
Native Alaskan artists visited New York this week with a message not so much about art, nor a species that’s struggling as rising temperatures melt its habitat from under its paws.
“With so much attention on polar bears, where’s the concern about the people? What about fellow Americans?” said Alvin Amason, an artist and member of the coastal Alutiiq people, who lives in Anchorage.
Talk about occupational hazards.Five Wildlife Conservation Society scientists studying the effects of global warming on shorebirds in Arctic Alaska had to be airlifted away from their remote camp late last month because of the appearance of another species whose life is changing as warming helps erode shores and melt sea ice. The researchers said a polar bear stuck on land forced them to evacuate their camp north of the remote Teshekpuk Lake on the Beaufort Sea –leaving food and tents behind. The carnivorous bears would normally be out on sea ice this time of year. But with recent warming the ice is miles from shore and polar bears, which were recently listed as “threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, are becoming increasingly trapped on land well away from their usual seal prey, said Dr. Steve Zack, who leads Arctic studies for WCS ”We had no idea how hungry they’d be and thus how ornery they’d be,” Zack, who made the decision for the researchers to evacuate even though they had been trained in bear safety, told me by his mobile phone from his current base near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. ”Where there’s one polar bear there are usually more,” he said, adding that government scientists have seen 32 polar bears stuck on shore this year, up from only one or two in previous years. In subsequent fly-overs over the abandoned camp, the team discovered that bears had eaten all of the food left by the researchers and destroyed two $500 tents. ”It was an ironic circumstance that studying climate change issues for our shorebirds put us in harm’s way with climate change effects on polar bears,” said Zack. Image by Mark Maftei, WCS