Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Polar Bears

From Reuters: Alaska to sue to block polar bear listing

Not even the scientists can predict what will really happen in terms of global warming. But there is too much evidence from the melting of the ice sheet in Greenland (New York Times) to the escalating ice loss in Antarctica (Washington Post) for us not to recognize that our polar regions are in trouble. Polar Bear International has some good information on the current status of polar bears. Studies seem to show that the population has declined and that cub survival rates are down.

The polar bear is already listed as a "vulnerable species" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species. The Alaska governor is worried that if the United States lists it on the federal endangered list that it will impact development in Alaska.

With the price of oil going up at such a rapid rate, there will certainly be a hue and cry for further oil exploration in Alaska. While some of that would help the local economy (and perhaps the national economy as well), Alaska is a priceless national treasure. So much of Alaska is pristine, undeveloped wilderness. At some point in time, the world needs to wean itself from its dependence on the fossil fuel, petroleum. When push comes to shove, humans are inventive, creative, and capable. Sooner or later we have to move to alternative fuels. If we go ahead and drill for oil in Alaska wilderness areas, it only postpones the inevitable. The arctic tundra is fragile, growing seasons are short. Land that is disturbed will take a very long time to recover its natural vegetation. If we resist the urge to drill in these pristine areas, perhaps the new technology will be forced to be developed more quickly.

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