What Do Polar Bears Have To Do With Shopping?


With the recent increase in news coverage on global warming, and the statements that the polar bear is the first animal to become endangered due to global warming, I feel the need to ask myself what I can possibly do to make a difference, and effect change that might positively impact the Polar Bear in my own life.

Photo by: Rozanne

Researches estimate that there are between 22,000 and 40 000 polar bears in the world (they are difficult to count) with close to half of the polar bear population living in Canada. Polar Bears were put on the endangered species act in 2004, and in the past four years we have barely heeded the warning and have continued to drill for oil. We can only scream for CHANGE now that our new President Elect is at the helm, but the last plan was merely an attempt at placating:

The Bush Administration has announced that it will protect polar bears as a "threatened species" under the Endangered Species Act. The decision follows a three-year legal battle waged by NRDC, the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace. While the new protection marks a step forward in our long-term fight to save the bear from the ravages of global warming, the administration's plan is full of loopholes for oil companies and other global warming polluters that will leave the bear vulnerable to extinction.

On February 6, the Bush Administration leased nearly 30 million acres of sensitive polar bear habitat in the Chukchi Sea for destructive oil and gas drilling. Record-setting bids from the Shell oil company and six other oil giants totaled $3.3 billion. The administration proceeded with the sale despite the oil industry's failure to develop an effective method to clean up oil in broken-ice waters. Oil-covered polar bears have almost no chance of survival. Once exposed to spilled oil, polar bears would almost certainly die from ingesting it while trying to clean themselves. NRDC and our partners will fight in federal court until the Bush Administration cancels these lease sales and examines the risk of spills and other environmental impacts from oil and gas development in vital polar bear habitat. (Source http://www.polarbearsos.org/)

Photo by: Christopher Woo


Two-thirds of Polar Bears Could Perish by 2050 That’s about 42 years from now, in our lifetime…..

In addition to the harsh reality of interrupted polar bear habitat from oil drilling, The U.S. Geological Survey reports that thinning sea ice from global warming could kill off two-thirds of the world's polar bears (including the entire Alaskan population) by mid-century, and because both issues have drastically effected the bears plight, the Polar Bear symbolizes the very core of one of the biggest issues facing us today as a global population:


We are the unconscious consumer, destroying the the very planet we depend on for life.  [more]

Consuming oil, and it's products at a staggering pace, and although not the largest contributor, oil, it's consumption, and it's devastating effects accounts for a major portion of our future woes.

So what can I DO? I started by taking a personal inventory on how I contribute to the problem, and have found that many of the products I invest in and buy, are made using oil. The list is STAGGERING.

A partial list of products made from Petroleum (144 of 6000 items)

Shoes, clothing, appliances, make-up, toothpaste, luggage, mops, shampoo, toys, vitamin capsules, and the list goes on and on.

One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make most of the products we purchase, and fill our homes and lives with.


Photo by: artsyevie
We are a consuming culture. Our popular culture loves the new, the shiny, and the art of the re-do, and most of us feel entitled to the luxury of “things.” We love to buy, and spend, and have, but most of us, have no clue that we have the power and the choice at an individual level to effect change by making better buying and asking ourselves:

"What we are really buying, and ultimately what it is REALLY costing us?"

The US Consumption of Oil is triple that of any other nation second to China, which means that we also triple our carbon output contributing to the problem of Global Warming more than any other Country.

If American consumers start to moderate OR CEASE our consumption of oil, and get the connection between our buying power and the state of the environment we can make a difference, and decrease the destruction of our planet. 


Because I am a female, and a mother, I make most of the purchasing decisions in my household. I have started to realize that I can make a difference just by influencing my spouse, children, extended family and friends to make better choices, and choose alternative products that are starting to become more available in the market.

If other mothers around the world joined me in this effort, we could together, make a substantial difference because:

IF WE WON'T BUY IT, MANUFACTURERS WILL STOP MAKING IT (by law of supply and demand.)

Here is how you can make a difference:

* Understand that everything you buy was manufactured and processed by using certain materials. Look on the label, and if it does not have one-then you can look for the tell tale signs: IF IT FEELS OR LOOKS LIKE PLASTIC, or is stretchy shiny or feels synthetic …Its likely petroleum based.

* Look into alternative products created and manufactured by companies who are using more eco friendly methods, materials and packaging. It's very important that we use our capital and dollars to support these companies as they bring these products to the market. If we are to create a healthy economy, and continue to rely on "shopping" as one way of doing so, then we all need to begin flexing our consumer muscle to buy products that DO NO HARM.

* Research. You don't have to be an expert in the field or have your environmental studies degree to start speaking out or asking questions. Use the internet, purchase a book on the subject, or visit a local green organization near you to learn more.

If we stop buying petroleum products, manufactures will stop making their items from petroleum products. They will either die off or find an alternative more eco-friendly way to produce, and bring their products to market.

(In my next post, I will tell you more about what you can do about the other half of our oil consumption which is based on travel. How products get to us, and the benefits of BUYING LOCAL.)

In conclusion:

So what does shopping have to do with the mass extinction of polar bears and other species?

It’s a Major piece of the Green GAME, and I DARE YOU to stop sitting on the sidelines, and make a difference. Get in the game with me. We are part of a team, and a collective body of intelligent, inspiring, thoughtful, creative, and ingenious beings. Don't think you have to do it all, just start somewhere…like home, and most of us who are lucky enough to have one will continue to increase our chances of sustainable life if we start making better purchasing decisions.

For more on Monica, visit EarthSavers.typepad.com

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