Thursday, December 13, 2012

Alaska: Polar Bears, Global Warming, and Preserving God’s Creation

When I got off the plane in Alaska I was excited to step into the cold walkway from the plane leading to the physical airport.  I took a deep breath looking like a child visiting a candy store for the first time. I had never been to Alaska:  I love experiencing new things and new places so I was intrigued, excited!  One of the first things I saw in the airport was a huge model of a white polar bear.  As I looked in the glass case the bear towered over me and though it was not alive, my heart skipped a beat.  As I continued to look closely at the bear, it’s white fur, tall and strong stature I started to see that this huge creature in essence embraced it’s own beauty.  As I walked away I kept these thoughts in mind.

I went to Alaska for a community organizing and advocacy gathering with the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church.  I am grateful.  The topic: Climate & Environmental Justice, Sustainable Development & Ministry With The Poor. There was so much wisdom and knowledge in the room of scholars, activists, ministers, educators, but I remembered one simple quote:  “If you want to know about the polar bears, ask the bears.”  This is what Rev. Ray, a clergyman, and native Alaskan said regarding polar bears and global warming in Alaska.

Before coming to this meeting I had never thought about how polar bears are affected by climate change.  I knew things about climate change:  the climate is getting warmer and warmer around the world, we should use alternative means of energy, fair trade is awesome, animals are effected.  But, how really is this issue-affecting animals and people whose livelihood come from the land and sea?

Ray stated the fact that polar bears are diminishing. How and Why?  Because of increased temperatures and global warming sea ice is melting and it can’t support the weight of the bear.  The melting of the ice is also impacting access and the numbers of the polar bear’s prey.  Walrus’, seals, and other animal’s livelihood are taken away causing strain on their ability to survive. 

Climate Change is also impacting the native people of Alaska.  Rev. Ray spoke about how the Native people of Alaska are subsistence hunters and fisherman (hunting, fishing, gathering berries and food).  Global warming impacts their ability to get meat, keep meat, house their berries, and survive.  These realities also affect folk spiritually and culturally. 

During the gathering I learned so much about the realities of global warming around the world. Some I knew, some I didn’t.  The reality of mountain top removal in the Appalachian Mountains and it’s impact on poor people.  The truth about islands in the Pacific Islands being submerged:  people’s homes going away with the ocean and families being displaced. I was reminded that families throughout the world who live off of the land, particularly throughout Africa, are suffering because of drought and inability to get a harvest off of their crops because of climate change. How fishing communities income and livelihoods in Grand Bayou, Louisiana are being impacted negatively.  Global warming affects the privileged at times, but it is communities who are poor who bear the brunt of climate change.

As I write this and reflect I am working to make sense of this myself.  I am privileged in many ways. I drive a car, I have air condition and heat, I am able to purchase groceries from the store, and I can take long hot showers amongst other things. However, I am challenging myself and also anyone who reads this to think twice about how we use what we have.  Here is a couple of sites with helpful tips:

Here are some quick tips I took from the above sites: 

1. Replace a regular light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl)
2. Recycle
3. Use Less Heat and Air Conditioning
4. Do not leave appliances on standby
5. Drive Smart
6. Buy Energy-Efficient Products
7. Use Less Hot Water
8. Turn stuff off!
9. Plant a Tree
10. Reuse your shopping bag

Genesis 1:1 reads: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The text goes on to speak about God’s creation of the land, sea, animals, sky, seasons and the list illustrates the beauty of God’s creation. Bill McKibben, founder of, noted that global warming today is like Genesis 1 running backwards.  Yikes!

Intense blog, right?!  But, really, I am encouraging us both to think about the polar bears and how the issue of global warming affects animals, the land, the sea, and people in harsh ways.  We can start helping one light bulb at a time!

What do you all think about the issue of Global Warming and Climate Change? 

In Peace,



  1. Reading your post brought me back to my days working on the cruise ships and the many, many months I spent cruising around the coast of Alaska. Of course I was blown away by the majesty of the scenery. I did a lot of trail running and hiking in and around our ports of call and saw some amazing sights and creatures. I was once looking out from a window high up inside the ship and right outside, there was an enormous bald eagle just floating in the updraft...incredible.

    But the best memory I have is of the Tlingit people who used to come on board and share the story of their people and their connectedness to this beautiful, beautiful land. There is a wonderful cyclical quality to their history that I think you would appreciate. Here's a site that I found that tells a little bit about them.

    Thank you for the post!


  2. Adam, Thanks for sharing your experience and the website for the Tlingit people. Absolutely beautiful! The stories that were told by Native people of Alaska will stay with me. Especially their connection to the land, animals, and their spiritual connections. All very powerful. Your experiences on the cruise ship sounds amazing and the bald eagle floating in the updraft sounds like fantasy/incredible! What do you mean by cyclical quality of their history? Thanks for sharing the site. Gonna save it as a bookmark. I pray all is well with you. Thanks for your voice!