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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Eventually Humans Will Have to Feed Climate-Fucked Polar Bears

Posted by on Wed, Jul 16, 2014 at 8:46 AM

The Guardian:

The day may soon come when some of the 19 polar bear populations in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia will have to be fed by humans in order to keep them alive during an extended ice-free season or prevent them from roaming into northern communities. Some bears may have to be placed in temporary holding compounds until it is cold enough for them to go back onto the sea ice. In worst-case scenarios, polar bears from southern regions may have to be relocated to more northerly climes that have sufficient sea ice cover.

In the anthropocene (the geological epoch defined by human activity), there are no true wild animals. All macroorganisms become synanthropic ("together with" + anthro, "human"). The wilderness that remains is microscopic. But the polar bear is doomed to become not just synanthropic like raccoons, pigeons, and rats (which must still struggle for their survival in the human habitat) but instead like the animals that live in captivity. With the anthropocene, the whole world is transformed into a zoo.

As for dogs and cats, these animals are not with us but are us. They have become something of the human...
My Human/Cat
  • CM
  • My Human/Cat

 

Comments (34) RSS

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Gordon Werner 1
you'll be relieved to hear that Congress is working on H.R.5077 "The Coal Jobs Protection Act of 2014" right now ... https://twitter.com/repbobgibbs/status/4…
Posted by Gordon Werner on July 16, 2014 at 8:51 AM · Report this
2
There are plenty of penguins at the South Pole. Problem solved.
Posted by mrjoe on July 16, 2014 at 8:54 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 3
This sounds like an expensive waste of time. Don't get me wrong. I love polar bears and think it's tragic that their habitat is being destroyed. But if they can't adapt, under the circumstances, let them go. Humans are causing a mass extinction event and until we're gone that's not going to change.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 16, 2014 at 9:10 AM · Report this
AFinch 4
Or we could, you know, let them merge back into the Brown/Grizzly population - something they're already doing, with viable offspring. This suggests they aren't actually a species of bear but a phenotype.

I'm not sure what the to-do about 'synathropic' is - all animals, all life, lives in a interdependent web. Humans are just another animal; making some artificial distinction about the absence of humans as part of that equation and calling it truly wild is a remarkably anthro-centric view of the world which implies some kind of extraordinary anthro-exceptionalism.

Raccoon and rat populations which are highly dependent on and flourish in the 'ecosystem' created by human development (deer too, for another extraordinary example) are no less symbiotic than polar bears we feed or the very highly symbiotic relationship we have with canines. "Domestic" cats actually aren't nearly as symbiotic and, like polar bears, are probably a much more recent development, at least on evolutionary genetic and geologic timescales.

So, now that you draw these artificial bright lines which are a function of human exceptionalism: what should we do about the Tazmanian Devils? What is the ethical thing?
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 9:12 AM · Report this
AFinch 5
BTW - cats are stupid, at least by anthropomorphic measures.
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 9:13 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 6
The whole world is already a zoo.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on July 16, 2014 at 9:21 AM · Report this
7
What is your kitty cat doing in that photo?
Posted by Patricia Kayden on July 16, 2014 at 9:34 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 8
@ 5, still mad that you got scratched as a kiddo when ypu tried pulling its whiskers? Get the fuck over it already.
Posted by Matt from Denver on July 16, 2014 at 9:41 AM · Report this
9
May I volunteer Mr. Mudede to be fed to the polar bears.
Posted by Deadhead Ned on July 16, 2014 at 9:46 AM · Report this
AFinch 10
@8 - didn't have cats as a child and didn't get scratched by any. I was, however, a cat owner (of many cats) for nearly 20 years, as well as a life-long dog owner. I know whereof I speak. They're stupid by comparison. Sweet enough pets, but dumb. Go ahead, tell me about how all their instinctual behaviors are just so genius.
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 9:50 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 11
@ 10, tell me how their observable calculation and problem solving is just "instinct."

"Stupid" is a derogatory term descriptive of an individual who is distinctly less intelligent than others of the same species, and is meaningless when used to compare one species to another.
Posted by Matt from Denver on July 16, 2014 at 9:57 AM · Report this
12
Anthropocene is misspelled. Also, informal and potentially dubious.
Posted by grr on July 16, 2014 at 9:58 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 13
@10 If you are comparing their "intelligence" to ours, at least they aren't the one's destroying habitat.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 16, 2014 at 10:01 AM · Report this
Max Solomon 14
GUYS! all animals are dumb (including humans).
Posted by Max Solomon on July 16, 2014 at 10:02 AM · Report this
AFinch 15
@11 (& @13) - I was very clear: by anthropomorphic measures.

@14 - of course, I'm just trying to get a rise...surprised I got it from the guy holding a dog in his avatar...though it is a toy poodle. ;-)
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 10:07 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 16
Anthropomorphic measures aren't real. Don't try to dress up your base feelings with big words.
Posted by Matt from Denver on July 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM · Report this
AFinch 17
Oh, and I know, I know...large dogs - as Mao rightly pointed out - have too large a carbon footprint and are purely a Bourgeoisie totem of conspicuous consumption. Well...if Mao had given even a passing thought to carbon he would have thought that.

Where is Raku?
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 10:10 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 18
It's hard to show valid evidence that cats are smarter or dumber than any other animal.

However, it's likely cats retain fewer memories than dogs. Research generally finds that memories and "consciousness" are functions of the brain's cerebral cortex (the outer layer). The more "wrinkled" and folded an animal's cortex is, the more memories it has. Cat's brains are relatively smooth compared to dogs.

/and I'm saying this as someone who likes cats and dislikes dogs.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on July 16, 2014 at 10:12 AM · Report this
AFinch 19
@18 - on a less trollish note: Cats are pretty demonstrably less teachable. In part, the memory issue, and in part, they aren't motivated particularly - they really do not care. Dogs have been evolving symbiotically with humans for 30k+ years, while cats are relatively newcomers to human involvement - 5k years. The latter is really a blink of an eye.

Dogs are, as a result, highly highly attuned to humans, are much better able to read and be tuned in emotionally and to learn. Given a few tens of thousands of years, it probably happens with cats too.

A great article on this:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and…

It includes links to papers, but this one is a favorite:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2007/…

Any of these measures is entirely arbitrary - as is any definition of intelligence.

So, seriously, nobody is interested in the devils?

Here's the thing about this "feed the polar bears": we intervene when a species has some value to us or to our popular imagination. Polar bears, being all white and cuddly in the popular imagination (thanks to Coca-Cola), are a lovely symbol to urge action, even though they're quite happy to hunt and kill humans - worse than Grizzlies.

You could say "save every species" because of course it's convenient to save snail darters when we have the larger (and independently laudable) goal of stopping one more crap-tastic stripmall in favor of saving a little habitat. But is saving every species a goal in an of itself? What about species like the devils who are likely on their way out...thanks to a virus, not people. Can we only change the effects that we - another animal - are the proximal cause of?

We can certainly make sweeping arguments we ought to maintain bio-diversity out of enlightened self-interest, but then again: that's just what is serving us.

I think this gets ethically challenging quickly. I say, if it comes to it, grab polar bear DNA and preserve it.
More...
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 10:29 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 20
"Less teachable" - and it should be noted that that means "less teachable by humans than other species that are teachable by humans" - is a measure of evolutionary need. Dogs evolved to be teachable by humans. Cats have not. Neither fact lends any support to any measure of relative intelligence.
Posted by Matt from Denver on July 16, 2014 at 10:47 AM · Report this
21 Comment Pulled (Trolling) Comment Policy
22

The best era for a sapient to be alive was the Pleistocene when the Irish Elk, Cave Bear, Cave Lion, Mammoths and other tasty treats roamed the planet.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_IXkl12tWxHY/TK…

The most adapted creature today is Watson, feeding itself with quadcopter ferries.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on July 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM · Report this
Post_Mortem 23
@19, why and how does seeing something as a matter of "enlightened self interest" complicate matters? There are moral systems (like, say, much of natural law philosophy) which base themselves upon such things. But even most deontological ethicists probably would not object to a person or society acting to avoid bad consequences for themselves where the deontologist sees no conflicting moral claim.

There are a number of applied ethics arguments which get to roughly similar conclusions. From a utilitarian standpoint, the suffering humans ultimately bring upon themselves and other species through environmentally destructive behaviour is morally wrong. From a Kantian view, we might say such action both "hardens the heart" and fails the test of universalizability. From a virtue ethicisist's standpoint, a virtuous person would not seek or callously cause the extinction of various species, so such acts are not moral. Etc.

All fairly simple arguments to levy.

Granted, what should be done, given that massive environmental destruction and mass extinction are moral wrongs, that is more complicated. But that's true of any large scale policy question.
Posted by Post_Mortem http://pointlessman.blogspot.com/ on July 16, 2014 at 11:30 AM · Report this
AFinch 24
@23 - why and how does seeing something as a matter of "enlightened self interest" complicate matters?

It matters because it still revolves around us - it's still anthro-centric: we are doing what is best for us, not necessarily what's best for the animals. It doesn't lead you to 'preserving species is in and of itself a goal. It's about preserving humans...oh, there we are again! Back to people as the top predator! What could be more natural than us competing and inadvertently wiping out a few species here and there...kind of the way the virus and natural devil behavior is wiping them out.

My issue is that Charles' whole cant is premised on humans being unnatural and somehow different and special..ethically or morally...and like the cat vs. dog intelligence thing...defining 'morality' is species-neutral terms is tough.

On a specific action level: Letting a super-predator like a polar bear go extinct isn't necessarily bad for us. It actually gets down to a case by case basis. I personally think often of Chris Packam's complaints about Pandas - just let them die out. But no, they're far too easily anthropomorphized - like Polar bears, so we engage in knee jerk responses.
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 12:10 PM · Report this
AFinch 25
@23 - tl;dr - I agree with your analysis and personally have no issue with either enlightened self-interest or other utilitarian arguments.
Posted by AFinch on July 16, 2014 at 12:12 PM · Report this
MrBaker 26
Charles, check this out, anthropogenic disturbance of forests in Canada and oil production.

http://www.mdpi.com/2073-445X/3/3/617
Posted by MrBaker http://manywordsforrain.blogspot.com/ on July 16, 2014 at 12:27 PM · Report this
treacle 27
@13 - Au contraire! Cats are devastating song bird populations.
Posted by treacle on July 16, 2014 at 12:36 PM · Report this
venomlash 28
@3: I'M SURE THAT REMOVING AN APEX PREDATOR FROM A COMPLEX BUT EXTREMELY MARGINAL (LOW BIOPRODUCTIVITY) ECOSYSTEM WON'T HAVE ANY DANGEROUS EFFECTS ON POPULATIONS OF THINGS LOWER DOWN IN THE WEB.
Shit's complex. For example, human overhunting of sea otters caused a fairly disproportionate rise in global warming. How? Well, sea otters are big predators of sea urchins. Sea urchins feed on kelp and other primary producers. Those primary producers are responsible for fixing huge amounts of carbon. Kill the sea otters and sea urchin populations skyrocket, meaning that they overgraze the kelp, and suddenly there's a lot less photosynthesis going on and everything goes straight to hell.
Now let's try that on a much larger scale with much larger predators. Let polar bears die off and seal populations will climb drastically. This glut of seals will exacerbate overfishing by preying heavily on the remaining fishery stocks, and suddenly fishermen are seeing their incomes disappear. We're seeing this effect already.
Posted by venomlash on July 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM · Report this
Post_Mortem 29
@24, I'm not convinced that preserving some species has to be a goal in and of itself--particularly because almost nothing is 'in and of itself', a point which I would expect someone arguing against humans being out-of-nature to appreciate.
Posted by Post_Mortem http://pointlessman.blogspot.com/ on July 16, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
chaseacross 30
"'The freedom of birds is an insult to me. I would have them all in zoos.'" -Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian
Posted by chaseacross on July 16, 2014 at 1:01 PM · Report this
Post_Mortem 31
As to avoiding what Peter Singer would call speciesism, I think at least he and Jeremy Bentham managed it fairly easily. It isn't all that hard for a utilitarian to do.

But since most people don't think that way, it is perhaps more effective for even people who take issue with anthropocentic thinking to take advantage of it by arguing for enlightened self-interest (in the manner of @28, for example). Subversion, and all that.
Posted by Post_Mortem http://pointlessman.blogspot.com/ on July 16, 2014 at 1:02 PM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 32
@28 But we can cull seals and turn them into cat food.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on July 17, 2014 at 3:36 AM · Report this
33
Your article is unfounded hype and suggests a total lack of biological knowledge. The Inuits insist "It is the Time of the Most Polar Bears" and the data supports them. The whole food web has improved. Less ice more photosynthesis, more plankton, so more fish, so more seals and bears. All research shows heavy ice is more detrimental, and regions of thick ice have always sustained far fewer bears. One reason is the Ringed Seal needs to make breathing holes and can only do so in new ice, that forms in open waters each winter. Read http://landscapesandcycles.net/less-arct…
Posted by Jim Steele on July 17, 2014 at 2:10 PM · Report this
34
Your article is unfounded hype and suggests a total lack of biological knowledge. The Inuits insist "It is the Time of the Most Polar Bears" and the data supports them. The whole food web has improved. Less ice more photosynthesis, more plankton, so more fish, so more seals and bears. All research shows heavy ice is more detrimental, and regions of thick ice have always sustained far fewer bears. One reason is the Ringed Seal needs to make breathing holes and can only do so in new ice, that forms in open waters each winter. Read http://landscapesandcycles.net/less-arct…
Posted by Jim Steele on July 17, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this

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