Modern conservation is marked by iconic images. In 1969 Cleveland’s polluted Cuyahoga River burst into flames. As Ted Williams recounts in “Get Off Your Land!” the incident symbolized the abysmal state of the nation’s waterways. The ensuing national outcry sparked passage of the Clean Water Act, which has been a dramatic, if unfinished, success story. More recently, reports of polar bears drowning because of melting ice have begun to jolt the world from complacency about global warming.
The polar bear’s plight is merely a harbinger of things to come. During the past four years Dan Glick has taken four trips above the Arctic Circle, interviewed scientists, and surveyed much of the literature. The result is “S.O.S.”, his report on “what biologists call a ‘trophic cascade’—which in simplest terms means a complete uncoupling of the food chain, with wildly unpredictable consequences.” Besides the drownings, researchers have documented polar bear cannibalism, Canadian bears growing steadily skinnier, and red foxes preying on Arctic foxes. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching image of all in Glick’s story is one of orphaned and apparently starving walrus calves, barking plaintively at a research boat as if begging for food. They were doomed. As one of the scientists said, “They had nowhere else to go. We knew these animals were goners.”
We realize this makes for very painful reading, but there’s no escaping that the harsh realities will only worsen if the world doesn’t act. Please do your best to brave your way through and take the steps recommended elsewhere in this issue to stop global warming. Make the switch to compact fluorescent lightbulbs, even if your incandescents still work “This Little Light of Mine” . The cumulative effect of everyone doing so would be staggering. Pressure your members of Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill to help control greenhouse-gas emissions (“Get On Board”). Make copies of these articles and share them with your family, friends, and coworkers, or click here to email copies.
Postscript: We are pleased to announce that Audubon finished first and third in the Friedheim Travel Journalism Awards given by the National Press Club. The top prize went to “Power Lunch” (July-August 2006), Jeff Fair’s up-close visit with wild brown bears beside the remote McNeil River in Alaska. Third place was given to Chris Cox’s “Beauty and the Bomb” (November-December 2006), which explored Vieques, an island near Puerto Rico that until 2003 had served as a military bombing range.—David Seideman