Melting Glaciers: What Happens when Your Home Melts Away

Melting Glaciers: What Happens when Your Home Melts Away

Photo credit: Annie Spratt via Unsplash

In recent years, we have been talking more and more about the ongoing climate emergency. Eco-anxiety has become a real problem: how can we help our planet when we do not know how to help? There are those who want change but feel helpless, and those who deny there is a problem in the first place. To prevent an irreversible climate disaster and the extinction of several species, throwing away single-use plastic cups from Starbucks and eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers have to become a thing of the past.

Animals are suffering as a result of human carelessness. Several species are facing the threat of extinction, while several others already have. Take the polar bear  for example, who has  little space left for shelter, and cannot carry out its  normal way of life, leaving it  to adapt to a new environment that it was  never designed for. While this is all incredibly disheartening, we can do something, but we must act now. 

The Point of no Return for the Environment 

Last week, a press release from Ohio State University declared that the climate change affecting Greenland has become irreparable, meaning that even if we decided today to no longer participate in climate change, which is impossible in itself, we could not prevent the glaciers from melting. You may not already know that Greenland is a huge island (almost four times the size of France), and that, given that 85% of its land is glaciers, it is one of the areas most affected by climate change in the world. While some may think that this problem does not concern them, tens of millions of people are and will continue to be affected by these changes.

For several years now, we have been aware that there is a climate crisis and that we must act to prevent disaster from happening. Last fall, Greta Thunberg led millions of people in 150 countries to voice their concerns about the ongoing climate crisis. While millions participated, not every country’s government took the movement seriously or made any real changes. Sadly, as long as there are going to be people who do not believe in climate change, the situation cannot change drastically. In a short time, the state of the environment has quickly deteriorated and demands even greater attention. It is important, now more than ever, to ask questions following these global protests: What can I do to fight climate change? Who does climate change impact the most? Humans are not the only victims of this crisis. Many animals will lose their homes and their way of life before we lose ours. How might you feel if your own home and everything you once knew collapsed before your eyes? 

Animals Losing their Homes Forever 

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the oldest, thickest Arctic ice has declined by ninety-five percent. As sea ice continues to rapidly melt, polar bears and other Arctic wildlife are forced to relocate onto land, resulting in conflict with humans and further threats to their survival. In fact, this is already happening. In recent years, polar bears have been seen coming into contact with humans as they rehome onto land in small villages and towns. A 2019 article released by Global News stated that about 50 polar bears were found roaming a local garbage dump in search of food in a small Russian town of about 3000 people. 

The Most Affected Animals

According to Julie Lacaz of National Geographic, the arctic animals currently at the highest risk of climate change impact in the world are: the ivory seagull, narwhal, copepod, polar cod, snowy owl, musk ox, dwarf mergule and arctic fox. . In Canada’s arctic territories alone, 2013 reports demonstrated 456 existing species, and today, over forty percent of those species are considered at risk of becoming extinct. Of these at-risk species, the ones considered to be at greatest risk are: narwhals, bowhead whales, beluga whales, polar bears, caribous and walruses. 

Of these species, polar bears have seen some of the worst effects of climate change. A 2018 study conducted by researchers Hamilton and Derocher estimated there were about 23,000 polar bears remaining in the world. Approximately sixty percent of polar bears live within or very near to Canada, and the remaining forty percent live in the USA (Alaska), Russia, Greenland, and Norway. Of the 19 existing polar bear populations, Canada’s Hudson Bay polar bear population has suffered greatly, experiencing a thirty percent population decline between 1987-2017 (about a one percent decline per year). To get a better sense of melting Arctic ice from 1984-2016, see this interactive visual produced by NASA

The Consequences that Threaten Animal Habitats and Way-of-Life 

At the current rate of melting, the Arctic will have no remaining ice in 2040 according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Polar bears give birth, rest, and hunt on sea ice. A polar bear’s survival depends upon its hunting success, meaning if there is less ice, there are less chances of food, which results in less chances of survival, and ultimately less chances of reproduction. Other animals like seals and walruses also depend on sea ice to give birth to their young, rest, and hunt. Without sea ice, their lives are at serious  risk, and they are facing extinction as a species.

Once Again Animals Pay the Price for Human Errors 

Animals have suffered enormous hardships because of humans. Because our society recognizes animals as nothing more than objects that fulfill our desires and perceived needs, we continue to exploit  them for selfish purposes like the taste of their meat, for fashion statements, or entertainment. Today, animal consumption is still considered essential to human life despite the plethora of research debunking these myths. Even with the knowledge of animal cruelty we have today, we continue mistreating animals to satisfy ourselves. There’s little to no respect in how we currently treat animals. When we’re not eating them, we admire their beauty by locking them up in zoos for our entertainment and viewing pleasure.

The problematic relationship humans have with animals leads us to minimize the importance of their safety and welfare. At the moment, several animals are in danger of extinction because of humans. Pollution, deforestation, and climate change are all reasons for the disappearance of entire breeds of animals. And we, as humans, are responsible for these three factors, and yet we are more concerned with our physical comfort than theirs.

Climate change  threatens the lives of many arctic animals. If we continue to see animals as less important than humans, we have failed to take this problem seriously. Animals are paying the price for human actions, or perhaps, the lack thereof. Animals will be the firsts  to suffer from climate change, and we can’t let them disappear without an effort. 

What You Can Do to Help 

Learning about the devastation of climate change on animals and humans is shocking and sometimes difficult to process. The good news is that you can make a change for the better. There are critical steps you can take right now to make a change at an individual, community, and policy level. 

Individual Changes 

In the fight against climate change, it is possible to make a difference on an individual level. Several everyday changes like cycling instead of driving, or taking public transport, help reduce petrol emissions which play a role in climate change. Plastic contributes enormously to pollution, which affects climate change, so proper recycling, or better yet, reducing your plastic consumption altogether, is another way to help. Embarking on a low, or a zero-waste lifestyle is also a great initiative.

Though it may seem trivial, planting trees makes a big difference by producing more oxygen, cleaning the air, and saving energy. Bringing your reusable bags and supporting green companies is another good way to reduce your ecological footprint, thereby fighting climate change. If you have some money to spare, you can make a one time or monthly donation to the World Wildlife Fund, which  works with communities and governments to help prevent rising temperatures that lead to climate change.
One of the greatest impacts we can have on climate change is reducing, or eliminating, our consumption of animal products. With all of the incredible plant-based products and recipes on the market, there’s no better time than the present to go vegan! 

Lastly, check out this list of the most impactful individual actions created by scientists to learn how you can make a real change today. 

Community Changes

Become a leader in your community by joining an already-existing organization that helps protect Arctic wildlife, or start your own initiative! Creating change within your community to help protect the Arctic could be as simple as starting a book club where you lead weekly discussions about the environment and arctic wildlife. Volunteer with your local wildlife foundation, or university environmental sciences faculty and ask questions about how to protect Arctic wildlife. Join an online organization like the Polar Bears International and explore their projects that are helping to protect Arctic wildlife. Learn about the several ways you can get involved today by visiting:

https://polarbearsinternational.org/get-involved.

Policy Changes 

Help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate Arctic ice melting by signing this petition to urge the U.S. government to act on this issue now. Join or organize a protest demanding that your local government take action and put measures in place to protect the Arctic and its endangered wildlife. Use your buying power as a consumer and commit to buying products from companies who are serious about protecting the environment. Talk to, and vote for government officials who recognize the climate crisis as urgent and who genuinely want to create effective, lasting change.

We Must Act Now

With the environmental situation becoming more urgent every day, we must ask ourselves what our place is in this fight. We can no longer turn a blind eye and ignore what’s going on around us. It’s time to acknowledge the real consequences of climate change and act in a way that will help those who are most vulnerable. If the state of the environment continues to deteriorate, most arctic animals will lose their homes, and their way of life, not to mention those who have already lost them. Even worse, they could lose their entire existence as a species. While several species are at risk of endangerment, polar bears have experienced some of the most harrowing effects of climate change in recent years. There are several ways you can take action to help fight climate change, and in turn, help save Arctic wildlife at the individual, community, and policy level. It is time to think about the repercussions of our collective actions so that we can save Arctic wildlife from their current fate.