Sunday night, Discovery Channel aired the final episode of the Frozen Planet series that aired on the BBC last year.
This episode featured Sir David Attenborough visiting both poles – huddled by a sedated polar bear in the Arctic, hollering over the extreme winds at his Antarctic campsite – reminding the audience of a cold reality regarding any species’ survival: it’s adapt or die.
Sir David wasn’t quite this blunt in his assessment, but it’s certainly the lasting message I took away from the episode. He discusses some of the potential winners and losers on our warming planet. Most haunting are time-lapse images of glaciers streaming into the sea and scenes of a polar bear mother and her cubs eyeing the water as their sea ice hunting platform melts beneath their paws.
But if polar bears and glaciers were the potential losers, along with a growing cast of native peoples and wildlife, some of the potential winners included killer whales (whose dorsal fins, apparently, are not entirely compatible with solid ice sheets), the oil, gas and shipping industries, and – ironically – some scientists, including those who study glaciers, climate and polar species and who have never been so busy or in-demand.
And yet, even though the episode fails to go in depth to explore the causes of climate change and maintains an uncertain position about how things will play out in the Arctic and Antarctic, this much is certain – even if we lack the power to immediately stop or reverse the rapid warming of our poles, we do have the power, and the responsibility, to keep our oceans productive and resilient.
That means reducing how much pollution we put into ocean ecosystems, placing better controls on how much wildlife we take out and ensuring (to the best of our ability) that we protect the world’s most productive ocean habitats.
At Oceana, we call these actions good policy. Personally, I also consider them good adaptations. You can help by calling on President Obama to prevent Shell from drilling in the Arctic.