January 01, 2015

Lessons from the Polar Bear Listing Litigation

Andrew C. Mergen

The April 3, 2006, cover of Time magazine featured a very lonely looking polar bear on a very small ice flow. The top of the magazine read: “Special Report Global Warming.” The left hand side of the magazine proclaimed in block capital letters: “Be worried. Be Very Worried.” It is hard to say when the polar bear became the preeminent four-legged symbol of the threat to the earth and especially its wildlife posed by global climate change but that April cover of Time was undoubtedly an important step in the bear’s journey to its current status as a climate change icon. That a bear should rise to this status is hardly surprising. Bears, including polar bears, have always captured our imagination. People and bears have a very long history together. In a cave in France, an 80,000 year old Neanderthal grave is connected to the grave of a brown bear in a manner that indicates that the animal had obtained some special status in the imagination of the gravediggers. More recent cave art is replete with images of bears. In our own modern era, we have the Teddy bear. Around Christmas time, another iconic image of the polar bear appears: the Coca Cola polar bears. Their placement in advertisements is at the very least intended to remind us that Coca Cola is cool. However, climate change is a threat to cool, to our planet, and especially to polar bears. In our era, we like bears and we want to save them and, of course, we’d also like to save our planet.

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