It seems the two PBI Facebook posts about polar bear expert Ian Stirling’s bear that supposedly “died of climate change” last summer, which included some scathing comments and links to this blog, were removed sometime between late August 2013 and yesterday, when I happened to look for them.
See the screen-caps below. The first one, posted August 6, linked to the original Guardian article on the Svalbard bear and added some activist spin for good measure!
The second one, posted August 8, linked to an PBI news item that introduced a PBI blog post written by Stirling, in which he attempted some damage control.1
[Reprise: Stirling speculated that a 16 year old bear found emaciated and dead in Svalbard, three months after it had been captured by researchers in good condition, had died of starvation due to lack of sea ice caused by global warming. Guardian writers transformed this into a bear that “died of climate change.” No mention from in the original story that 16 years is near the maximum life expectancy for male bears in the wild, that death by starvation is the usual cause of death for very old bears, or that other bears in the area were doing just fine (based on the fact that the Norwegian team working that area had just posted their data online). See my original post here, followup here, Featured Quote #44, here and footnote below]
Stirling himself (a “scientific advisor” to Polar Bears International, PBI), and the-polar-bears-are-dying message generally, took a big hit over that incident. But attempting to rewrite history? See the screen-cap below, taken yesterday (pdf here):
The deletion of these two entire entries suggests that PBI and Ian Stirling would rather their faithful Facebook followers and donors not have a chance to revisit the scathing comments and links to this blog. I assume it is the comments and links that were the offending parts, since Stirling’s blog post at PBI is still there, and of course, the news stories carried elsewhere are still out there. So instead of deleting comments, they removed the entire posts.
Good thing I saved screen caps of many of the more critical comments, from at least two PBI Facebook followers I’ve never heard of — have a look. [August 6th post was also captured by the cache machine]
Below the first post (August 6):
And he keeps at it…
Under the second item (August 8th), which linked to Stirling’s blog post (in which he tried to justify his comments), whoever was moderating the PBI comments explained that Stirling had only said the bear “likely” died of starvation. Another commenter replied:
Yet another commenter says he was with Stirling on that trip to Svalbard and offered the following:
My conclusion? Stirling wanted it both ways: to be treated like a respected scientist when he was behaving like an activist. He got caught out. But rather than accept personal responsibility for the whole thing, he blamed it on activist journalism. It simply didn’t wash.
Polar Bears International found it embarrassing to be criticized by supporters on its primary donation-generating forum (its Facebook page) and unacceptable to say the least to have links to PolarBearScience sitting there in perpetuity. So both posts were conveniently ‘disappeared,’ as if the whole unsavory episode never happened.
Links to original stories below.
Footnote 1. We all know journalists often get things wrong (just see my last post for a personal example!). However, Stirling just didn’t seem to understand that the part he says he was ‘misquoted’ on was not the part so many folks were upset about.
Hype from the Guardian is to be expected. What we expected from Stirling (at the very least) was the scientific facts as well as his speculation that this event could have been cause by global warming — to have pointed out that the bear was very old, that death by starvation is normal for old bears, that other bears were doing fine. What he gave the Guardian was the speculation and activism without any scientific caveats (his damage control blog post conceded only the last point).
PBI Facebook post August 6, 2013 with some comments [screen-caps]
PBI Facebook post August 8, 2013 with some comments [screen-caps]
August 2013 archive at PBI Facebook, at April 29, 2014 [screen-cap showing Svalbard bear stories gone]