Pizza the Polar Bear

The plight of ‘Pizza’ the polar bear currently residing in a Chinese shopping centre is probably the most pitiful thing you will read about in a long time, certainly since Cecil the Lion and Walter the Dentist.

If we needed a reminder of our complete disregard for other species, our alienated divorce from nature and our abject cruelty, this is it.

The Huffington Post’s spin on this is that the good news is that Yorkshire Wildlife Park is offering to ‘take Pizza on the condition that the Grandview agrees not to replace him with another polar bear or any similar-sized animal’ before explaining how roomy and natural his new pad will be.

Happy days.

It all sounds good but is swapping Guangzhou for Doncaster really going to cut it? We’re told that ‘the British park has a specially-created habitat for polar bears’.

But polar bears don’t belong in Yorkshire.

They’ll take photos on their phone of him there too, just from a few feet further away, and they won’t be Chinese.

As the scientists discusses the difference between how a 1.5c and 2c rise will effect the world (and the Greenland ice-cover in particular) the plight of poor old Pizza seems poignant if inane:

“For example, an extra 0.5C could see global sea levels rise 10cm more by 2100, water shortages in the Mediterranean double and tropical heatwaves last up to a month longer. The difference between 2C and 1.5C is also “likely to be decisive for the future of coral reefs”, with virtually all coral reefs at high risk of bleaching with 2C warming.”

Only in June this year National Geographic reported a new study showing how melting changes Greenland’s weather, with far-reaching consequences:

“Satellite observations published by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center on Tuesday reveal that Arctic sea ice covered an area of just 4.63 million square miles (12 million square kilometers). That’s about 5 percent lower than the previous record low, set in May 2004, and more than 10 percent lower than the average sea ice extent from 1981 to 2010.”

They quoted climate scientist Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University has a habit of understatement: “It’s pretty worrisome” she said before concluding: “We’re in uncharted territory, in terms of the human experience.”

Polar Bears have long been a sort of naff shorthand for ecological crisis. They perpetuate a Blue Peter approach to environmentalism, that the problem is always ‘over there’, somewhere else and normally confined to ‘saving’ single species. It’s a kind of shorthand-symbol for an apolitical view of climate change wrapped in a cuddly bear that distracts from the issue that it us and our role in an economic system of exploitation that is the problem.

Save Pizza, send him to Doncaster if you want. Just don’t give yourself a pat on the back for it.

Comments (3)

Leave a Reply to Anton Cancel reply

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  1. Wul says:

    So what do I do?
    I’ve only been on a plane once in the last 15 years. I get the train when I can, my car does 53mpg, I use as little energy as I can because my income is low.

    Can we begin to talk about how just maybe the “economy” or “growth” are not the most important metrics in the world?

  2. Mathew says:

    The 1.5 degree target was simply a sop to low lying island nations. Both the 1.5 and 2 degree targets are impossible without NETs (negative emissions technologies) which haven’t been invented yet. So the Paris climate agreement was predicated on a technological fix which doesn’t exist yet, and which would have to magically hoover up millions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere (see Kevin Anderson).
    It’s reckoned that Arctic summer sea ice will collapse by 2020. The loss of this remaining 4 million sq km will have a warming effect equivalent to the last 25 years of CO2 emissions and could trigger methane release (see Peter Wadhams).
    I think the 1.5 degree target will be breached by 2020 and the 2 degree target will be breached by 2025. Sea level rise in this century won’t be measured in cm it’ll be in metres.

  3. Anton says:

    “The plight of ‘Pizza’ the polar bear currently residing in a Chinese shopping centre is probably the most pitiful thing you will read about in a long time…If we needed a reminder of our complete disregard for other species, our alienated divorce from nature and our abject cruelty, this is it.”

    Hmm. Is keeping a polar bear in a shopping centre more “pitiful” than keeping a dog in a tenement flat or a rabbit in a hutch?

    “But polar bears don’t belong in Yorkshire.” True. Nor do rabbits belong in hutches, or dogs in tenements.

    Setting aside the principles involved, the facts are clear; overwhelmingly, cruelty to animals is inflicted by pet owners. The most recent report I can trace from the RSPCA notes that “1,029 people convicted of animal welfare crimes in 2014 in England and Wales”. (I can’t find equivalent statistics for Scotland, but I guess they’d reflect much the same picture.)

    There’s no evidence that Pizza the polar bear is being mistreated. But there’s plenty of evidence that pets are being mistreated in Scotland on a huge scale. Check out announcements from the Scottish SPCA for the truly horrible details.

    But it’s so much easier to blame the Chinese.

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