Inspiring young people to take an interest in preserving the earth’s natural resources is not an easy task. Technology is a distraction, certainly, and teenage lives are filled with their own sets of challenges.
Polar Bear International has set out to offer young people plenty of incentive to participate in a worthy cause. They’ve set up Project Polar Bear, which is, according to the website, “a way for small groups of young people to collectively make a big difference! This bi-national contest challenges teams of students to develop community projects that reduce the carbon dioxide load in the atmosphere.
“Over the past three years, contest participants have reduced CO2 by nearly 200 million pounds. What’s more, their efforts have had a ripple effect, inspiring long-term change in communities through ongoing projects.
“PBI teams up with zoos, aquariums, science centers, and other like-minded partners on the contest—anywhere in the U.S. and Canada with teens 14-17 years old and an adult mentor who want to take part in the challenge.”
Canadian actor Andrew Jackson has been named spokesman for the project and is proud to be part of it. He gave me his insights on the organization and shared his feelings on the importance of conservation and preserving our natural resources.
As an actor, you must be asked to speak out for many causes. What attracted you to Project Polar Bear?
I wrote an article for The Morton Report in June of 2011 on the subject of charities. After sharing the profound impact that various charities had on my life, I closed the article saying, “I’ve always had a great love and connection to nature and wildlife. As a young child my parents took our family on wilderness camping trips across Canada. One cannot place a value on Nature. I am presently looking to volunteer for a wildlife protection program or organization that is in keeping with my passion.”
The search is over. I found an organization that exceeds my expectations. Polar Bears International is deeply passionate in their commitment to protect these magnificent creatures and is open to any and all perspectives. They provide educational resources, encourage young minds to find solutions, support scientific research, and promote ecological stewardship. PBI is determined to find realistic solutions to save the polar bears and their habitat. I salute their hard efforts.
Have you always been interested preserving the planet’s natural resources?
As a young student in school I was exposed to various environmental documentaries and was shaped by that experience. As an adult I felt increasingly overwhelmed by man’s destructive impact on nature and questioned my own ability to implement change. It seemed depressingly irreversible. PBI has offered me a constructive solution.
Have you been to Manitoba to see the polar bears in their natural environment? If so, can you describe the experience?
I am extremely excited about seeing polar bears in their natural environment. Thanks to Polar Bears International I’ve been introduced to Polar Bear Cam. Ah, the wonders of modern technology. It’s great seeing the bears in their natural habitat. Polar Bear Cam has increased my awareness of the polar bears' current situation as it relates to the lack of snow and sea ice. It’s clear that the bears need our help!
I’ve also been following the experiences of others on the Polar Bears International website such as the Scientists and Explorers' blogs and the blogs from PBI’s Leadership Camp. The site has granted me a fresh, exciting new way of viewing the future.
What can people do locally to help Project Polar Bear?
Firstly spend some time on PBI’s website and make an informed opinion. Their work is inspirational. Watch the videos on climate change. Learn about the impact of climate change on polar bears. Get your local schools involved in PBI’s Tundra Connections broadcasts (also archived) or follow the bears on the Polar Bear Cam. Truly understand the science so you can tell others.
Get teens to register for Project Polar Bear. Groups of two to three teens ages 14-17 are encouraged to create and carry out projects reducing carbon emissions in their local community. The high scoring team and their advisor will travel to Churchill Manitoba, the polar bear capitol of the world and see polar bears in the wild. The second and third highest scoring teams and their adult advisers travel to San Diego for a Beluga Encounter at Sea World San Diego and receive a VIP Tour at Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. To learn more about the contest visit the website.
Do a fundraiser for PBI. PBI is a not-for-profit organization solely focused on being a champion for polar bears. Instead of getting birthday gifts this year, why not adopt a polar bear and have your friends make a donation to PBI? These little gifts of financial support do make a difference.
Stay in touch. PBI wants to hear about your successes and share them with the world. This will motivate and inspire others to do the same. Contact PBI through email at firstname.lastname@example.org — and join their Facebook page.
Has the plight of the polar bears become a political issue at all?
PBI is an apolitical organization that has emerged as a real force for polar bear conservation. Its staff and volunteers are skilled at bringing everyone to the table — with a focus on finding solutions at working as a team on behalf of polar bears.
There is a lot of information coming out right now about Canada and polar bears. On November 10, 2011 the Canadian Government declared the polar bear a species of special concern under the Species At Risk Act.
I am still investigating and learning about this issue. I believe Canada should classify polar bears as a species that is threatened throughout the country. Canada has 13 different polar bear sub-populations making the issue far more complicated. If Canada chooses to manage these groups of bears regionally or independently, some bear populations could be classified as endangered (such as the Hudson Bay polar bear) while others would be listed under special concern.
I believe in PBI’s approach to saving polar bears is through conservation education and ecological stewardship — backed up by sound scientific research — and by a can-do spirit that takes an innovative approach to conservation: one that crosses traditional organizational boundaries and builds collaborations in the interests of polar bears.
As spokesman, will you travel to educate the public on the Project?
I really look forward to my visit to Churchill, Manitoba. There have been countless individuals who have been blessed by the experience. They describe the first eye contact with the magnificent animal as inspirational and life changing.
These days, a good faction of the public is struggling just to make ends meet. When the economy and life in general is dragging people down, do you think a project like this might give them hope for the future?
Throughout human history people have demonstrated extraordinary collective behavior during times of struggle and grief. My heart goes out to everyone who feels the pain of these difficult and interesting times. We must come together and embrace change in order to build for the future through new ideas and ways of living.
Project Polar Bear focuses on key conservation behaviors - those that can make a difference and many of these behaviors can SAVE the consumers money. Visit the website for tips on how to do this.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about Project Polar Bear and your role in spreading the word about it?
Polar Bears International is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat. They concentrate their strategies in areas of research, education, and stewardship.
By combining a message of hope and action with carefully crafted, proven programs, PBI has inspired individuals, business leaders—indeed, whole communities—to join them in addressing climate change.
In 2007 I wrote a poem on the subject of the polar bears situation. Thanks to PBI and my faith in the future I know we can change the polar bear’s fate.
The Bear’s heart sank as he stared back in defeat
The line between sky and snowy ground blurred into a blank space of nothing,
Only the great white bear and his watery black eyes remain ,
A figure suspended in a clean sheet of paper,
His parting footprints leave holes in my heart,
When the great one falls, what is left of oneself of this world.
Visit Andrew Jackson's official website.