When the fight becomes about the symbol and not the issue that symbol represents, it's hard to have a real debate.
I don't know whether you saw the YouTube video that Obama put out to accompany his big climate speech in June 2013, there wasn't a single polar bear image in it. It was all floods and...
Best answer: When the fight becomes about the symbol and not the issue that symbol represents, it's hard to have a real debate.
I don't know whether you saw the YouTube video that Obama put out to accompany his big climate speech in June 2013, there wasn't a single polar bear image in it. It was all floods and storms and dried-up corn. Four years before that, there would have definitely been polar bears in that video.
A little history..
The polar bear became an icon of climate change, because in a shrewd, "gotcha" kind of way, the Center for Biological Diversity and other environmentalists chose the polar bear as their tool to try to use the Endangered Species Act to put pressure on the Bush administration to deal with climate change as a much larger problem.
Even though the environmental groups themselves admitted it was very unlikely that this would work, they were trying to make the case that the polar bear is endangered, that the thing that is endangering it is climate change, and that the government is legally compelled by the Endangered Species Act to deal with this threat to an Endangered Species. So, if you accept that the polar bear is endangered, then you have to accept the larger responsibility of dealing with climate change.
It's a completely back-door way to try to force the government to act on climate change, but the result was that the polar bear ended up with this superstar status and popular recognition among the general public, which I found amazing.
The Center for Biological Diversity realized that they needed a public relations strategy as well as a legal strategy, and, by picking the polar bear, they knew that they could put the Bush administration on the spot. The Bush administration couldn't just put the polar bear in this infinite waiting room, because people would be upset.
Kids started writing letters to the Secretary of the Interior begging him to save the polar bear. They were sending in their own hand-drawn pictures of bears, drowning.
In some ways, the premise of the book is that our emotions and imaginations about these animals dictates their ability to survive in the real world, and this story was a particularly fascinating--not to mention peculiar--example in which all this sentimental gushing over polar bears, which, on the face of it, seems mawkish and kind of silly, was the lynchpin in a legal proceeding. In that case, our emotions about this animal really did matter.
Of course, there's a whole other part of the story where the administration got around it anyway. But, for a while, it mattered.
4 weeks ago