My first polar bear sighting was unforgettable

When I found out that National Wildlife Federation was sending me to the polar bear capital of the world to do some work on polar bears, I was pretty excited. On Thursday, when my plane touched down and I stepped out onto the tundra, my excitement kicked up a notch. Today, when I watched a polar bear walk toward me, pause, then look me in the eye, I reached child-on-Christmas-morning levels of giddiness.

Volumes have been written about the majesty of polar bears, the awe they inspire, and the life changing experience it is seeing one in the wild. I wish every person on the planet could have this experience – to look into the eyes of a polar bear, to see a mother with her cubs, to watch males spar on the tundra. I am pretty sure if we could pull this off, we would have no problems implementing solutions to climate change.

Imagine it: Every time you drive your car instead of taking public transit, you flash back to your trip out on the tundra. Every time a Senator has to decide to vote yes or no on climate legislation, they see the face of a polar bear looking up at them. Every time an oil executive gets ready to sign a new lease to drill for oil off the Alaskan coast, he pictures a mother polar bear leading her cubs out to the ice for their first hunt.

Unfortunately, polar bear tours for the everyone is not an option, and every day people make decisions without thinking twice about the ramifications for the planet. From the cars we buy to the officials we elect, many of our choices have real consequences for polar bears and other species threatened by climate change. Simply put, we all play in a part in deciding whether or not polar bears will survive the climate crisis.

Right now, polar bears are struggling. Here in Churchill, polar bears could see one of their worst years yet. In the coming days and weeks, we hope to shine a light on this story with the help of Polar Bears International, an organization dedicated to educating people about polar bears and inspiring people to take actions to save them.

Polar bears and climate change

Learn how climate change is impacting polar bears and their sea ice habitat.