Spirit Bear Youth Coalition
- Marching Since: September 15, 2006
Global warming affects us all. Even the spirit bear. At the age of 7, I learned that one person no matter their age can make a difference for all life. It was a lesson that has come to define my life, for it was the driving force behind why, at 13, I dedicated my life to protecting the last intact habitat of the rare white Kermode or spirit bear on Canada’s west coast. The spirit bear, a genetically unique, white-coated black bear, numbers fewer than 400 and its future is threatened by habitat loss. Today, the efforts of my organization, the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, along with many others, have helped protect a portion of this bear’s wilderness. Yet more work remains and the spirit bear’s future is far from certain. So how does this relate to global warming? Global warming’s threat to indicator species animals that help us gauge our future has been well documented, but most people don’t make its connection to animals that live outside the arctic. And they should. The campaign to save the spirit bear is the most supported conservation initiative in Canadian history and enjoys more support for its protection than the percentage of people in the country that support taking action on climate change. Yet saving the spirit bear requires stopping global warming. As our planet warms so to does the world’s oceans. If the Pacific Ocean’s temperature rises by only a few degrees, it could be fatal to North America’s west coast salmon runs. If the water gets too hot, the salmon can’t lay their eggs. Without the five species of salmon that spawn on the coast food that accounts for 95% of the spirit bear’s fall diet that in turn helps them gain the needed fat for their winter sleep many bears would starve. Of course, the impact would be gradual, but with fewer salmon to eat, fewer bears would survive – disrupting the sensitive nature that produces the spirit bear’s unique gene. And the bear population changes, the spirit bear’s gene would gradually mutate and disappear forever. All issues facing our world can be looked at pessimistically and optimistically. I subscribe to the latter. Despite the threats to its future, by protecting the spirit bear’s last intact habitat we do more than just save a white bear, we also help lessen the impact of global warming on its future and ours. You see, when a bear chows down on a salmon, they leave the carcasses to rot on the forest floor. These rotting salmon carcasses supply the nutrients that go into the soil and allow for the trees in this rainforest to grow to the massive size that they are. The spirit bear, because of its colour, is more camouflaged than other bears while fishing, and as a result catches more salmon than others bears. And the more salmon caught and left to rot on the forest floor, the bigger the trees grow. These trees provide shade that allows the streams to stay cool enough for the salmon to spawn and they act as bear dens during their winter sleep. However, these ancient trees have one much more important function: they act as a carbon sink digesting the carbon dioxide that helps heat our planet and releasing oxygen to help sustain us all. And in this one small corner of our planet, the spirit bear plays a central role in sustaining an ecosystem that is the last large area of intact temperate rainforest in the world; it helps to stem the impact of global warming that eventually would threaten its own future. Through my efforts to save the spirit bear and through my daily choices in life I hope that I can do my part to help stop global warming. The quest to save the spirit bear began with one voice and today it is championed by 6 million voices worldwide. I hope that beyond saving the spirit bear, our global network realizes that they can do the same thing for any issue that they believe in. And if we each tackle a small aspect of global warming in our community, this seemingly overwhelming and unstoppable problem can be solved. It’s the power of one and we each have a responsibility to do our part to stop global warming. For if we do, in the sum total of all our acts will be the realization of our collective dream to stop this impending crisis and create a legacy for generations to come that will be unmatched. So let’s do our part. For the sake of the spirit bear. For the sake of our world. Join the Virtual March!
D. Simon Jackson
Founder, Spirit Bear Youth Coalition