Polar bears are suffering the consequences of our unbridled activity on the planet in more ways than one. Anthropogenic climate change is causing polar bears to starve, seek out unnatural food sources such as dolphins, mate with other species, wander into towns, and become trapped as their habitat shrinks at a rapid pace. These changes are occurring faster than these animals can adapt and may spell the species’ looming demise.

A picture showing a mother polar bear and her two-year-old cub stranded on a rapidly melting glacier proves how urgent it is to act. Our global actions have put these polar bears in the dire position they are in, and only rapid collective action can get them out of it. Moreover, the issues facing polar bears are indicative of the dangers that will soon befall the planet as a whole.

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The image was captured by Paul Nicklen in Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Canada and is accompanied by a quote by fellow-photographer Cristina Mittermeier calling us to action to save the oceans: “Progress must press on, but over the next ten years, what we do or fail to do to preserve the oceans’ integrity and its ability to provide vital ecological services — like oxygen production, carbon sink, and, of course, food — may be the most important thing we do for ten thousand years.”

That’s because the effects of our unchecked consumption patterns are particularly visible in the Arctic where temperatures, which are warming between two and four times faster on than the rest of the planet, are causing ice to melt and sea levels to rise. This is threatening human habitat as much as the polar bears’, with the populations of several insular countries soon forced to relocate.

In a way, this image of two stranded polar bears serves as a preview of how we are backing ourselves into a corner with our consumer choices and destroying the very planet we call home. The only difference is that the polar bears aren’t at fault and are powerless to save their habitat. They can only suffer the consequences of our actions and watch as their home melts before their eyes.

Healthy oceans are indeed vital to our survival. They are the world’s largest carbon sinks, help regulate weather patterns — which are increasingly erratic and destructive due to global warming — and produce 50 percent of the world’s oxygen.

What We Can Do

There are three main ways we can take action for the planet, and they all involve consuming responsibly.

  • Ditching seafood: The fishing industry is incredibly detrimental to our oceans, and thus to the planet as a whole. Overfishing using destructive methods such as bottom-trawling are depleting marine species — even untargeted ones — and ruining seafloors. Eating seafood is causing so much damage that scientists predict a mass marine extinction by 2050. And we know that a healthy ocean is vital to our survival. Thankfully, there are plenty of tasty and sustainable alternatives.
  • Swapping out meat and dairy: Perhaps most important in the fight against climate change is curbing the animal agriculture industry. Raising animals for meat, dairy, and eggs produces more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector. The best way to take a stand for our planet is to swap out animal products for delicious plant-based food. Doing so will halve your carbon footprint. To learn more about how you can use your food choices to help save species and combat climate change, join One Green Planet’s #EatforthePlanet movement.

Additionally, you can contribute to the fight for our oceans by supporting organizations such as Sea Shepherd and Ocean Conservancy.

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Finally, share this information with everyone you know. Failure to act now will not only spell doom for polar bears but for the planet as a whole.

Image source: Paul Nicklen/Instagram