Tag Archives: The Guardian

Challenging “save the polar bear” propaganda

[Updates: Note correction to point 6 and links added at the end of the post]

Polar Bears International has mustered the UK newspaper, The Guardian, to provide free publicity for a “save the polar bear” propaganda event coming up tomorrow, November 6.

From The Guardian Environment Blog:

“On Wednesday, 6 November at 10am EST and 3pm GMT you will have a chance to ask a scientist [Steven Amstrup] and a conservationist [Krista Wright] about the latest research on the state of polar bears – and the efforts to protect them.”

The “participants” of this webchat are Polar Bears International (PBI) employees. PBI is a lobbyist organization that uses its influence to pressure politicians and supposedly impartial scientific organizations, like the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG), to make decisions that fit their agenda. The PBI rallying cry is “Save Our Sea Ice.They are committed to promoting legislation to curtail supposed effects of anthropogenic global warming and are using polar bears as a tool to do so.

Dr. Steve Amstrup is now a full-time, professional activist and spokesperson for PBI (Chief Scientist and Vice President”), a job he took on after a long career as a polar bear biologist. Arranging “webchats” like this is part of the job he is now paid to do.

Krista Wright has a Bachelors degree in Outdoor Education and has worked for NGOs for more than 20 years. She joined PBI in 2009 and is now the Executive Director (i.e., an administrator). She is described as “a passionate conservationist who is deeply concerned about the effects of global warming on polar bears, the Arctic, and the planet.She brings emotion to this event, not science.

Below I dissect some of the fear-mongering background presented at The Guardian, one point at a time; Guardian quotes are in italics, numbered; my responses are below, with links to pertinent previous posts that are fully referenced:

[Links to video and the webchat Q & A have been added at the end of this post as updates]

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Ian Stirling’s latest howler: “the polar bear who died of climate change”

Will wildlife biologist and Polar Bear Specialist Group member Ian Stirling now say anything – no matter how unscientific – to garner more sympathy and media attention for polar bears? It appears so.  [see followup post published Aug. 11, here]

A tabloid-style picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words article appeared in the environment section of the UK newspaper The Guardian yesterday (August 6, 2013) with a picture of a dead polar bear meant to wring your heart. The picture is a vehicle for statements from Ian Stirling and others that this polar bear died from climate change. A longer article was alongside.

The caption below the photo of a dead polar bear (animal tragedy porn) is this:

This 16-year-old male polar bear died of starvation resulting from the lack of ice on which to hunt seals, according to Dr Ian Stirling.”

Many folks have been asking questions about this and so have I.

I suggest this is what really happened: the polar bear biologists working in Svalbard earlier this year knew this bear was going to die back in April when they captured him – they simply waited, with a photographer on hand, until he died. It was an orchestrated photo-op.

[Update, Aug. 8, 2013: I suggest it was not necessary for anything more to happen to “orchestrate” this photo than for the researchers who captured the bear in April to tell colleagues and local tour boat operators (who always have avid photographers on board) to “keep an eye out for a dead bear, we don’t think this guy is going to make it.” However, very little real information is provided. Who knows when (or from whom) we’ll get the whole story — if ever? That’s why anecdotal accounts like these aren’t “evidence” of anything, in the scientific sense. That’s the real take-home message here.  If this dead bear was being presented as scientific evidence, we’d have been given all the details, including necropsy results, local ice conditions, precise dates, locations, and photos of any other bears that were seen that were in poor condition. In other words, a proper scientific report. ]

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