As humans, we have the incredible ability to influence and mould our environment to our liking. For centuries we’ve constructed homes and buildings to separate ourselves from the natural world and for the most part, this has enabled us to thrive and expand as a species. The only problem with this line of thinking and associated advancement is the fact that we are not, actually, separate from the natural world – and many of our actions have a tremendous negative influence on the world and animals that surround us.
In the past 40 years alone, over 52 percent of the world’s wildlife has disappeared from the face of Earth. Our obsession with meat and cheese is not only causing undue harm to billions of farm animals but it is driving us into a state of environmental crisis. This singular industry is currently responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation sector. The livestock system occupies over one-third of Earth’s landmass and is one of the leading drivers of global deforestation and species extinction in its expansion. Not to mention, animal agriculture also contributes to rampant air and water pollution.
From our standpoint, it is easy to forget or ignore the fact that our everyday actions have an impact on the planet … but then we see images like this one, and it all comes smashing into focus.
This is Arturo, Argentina’s only polar bear. Now, you might be wondering why Argentina has a polar bear, and as ridiculous as that thought is, it is the reality – he lives in an enclosure Mendoza Zoo. Arturo has been wasting away in this zoo facility for the past 20 years. Subject to an environment that is entirely unsuited to his species, this polar bear has been left to waste away in this sad excuse of a life.
While Arturo’s experience in this zoo has been exceptionally bad, he has become a haunting symbol of how we as a species have impacted the world around us.
The polar bear’s habitat has shrunken dramatically in the past century, primarily due to the brutal effect of global climate change. As the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere increase, the planet’s temperature is rising, leading to the rapid melting of the polar ice caps and warming of the oceans. The polar bear species relies on these ice caps for survival and as they disappear, so does their population.
In an effort to “protect” this species from abject extinction, many people assert that moving them to zoo facilities is the best bet for their survival. But looking at Arturo, we can hardly agree that life in an artificially chilled environment compares to life in the wild. Without their wild home, polar bears are unable to exhibit their natural instincts, their internal drive to fight the elements and survive is diminished. They lose everything that makes them polar bears – the extreme boredom and frustration with this tiny ice box leads them to exhibit stereotypic behaviors such as pacing or head bobbing. These pointless, repetitive actions are thought to be physical manifestations of extreme mental distress. According to Polar Bears International, “Some 85 percent of North American polar bears [in zoos] do it, devoting nearly a quarter of their “active day” (i.e. the time they spend alert and moving) to this behavior.”
Knowing this, how is it that we have been tasked with determining that life in captivity is truly preferable. If we are really concerned with the conservation of this species, we need to be taking action to protect their habitat.
Poor Arturo’s health has been on the decline in the past year and he is extremely thin and obviously depressed. There may not be hope to save this bear, although we can still do everything in our power to try, but we do have hope that thousands of other polar bears can be saved – but it requires every single one of us to take action.
First and foremost, we need to stop capturing animals from the wild for the purpose of our entertainment and perpetuating the idea that zoos are educational. These animals do not exist for us to look at them, they all play a vital role in their respective ecosystems, by removing them from this we are tearing at the threads that hold this planet together. Second, we need to mitigate the damage we are doing to the planet in the form our food choices. Animal agriculture is by far the most environmentally destructive industries that is driving climate change and making the polar bear’s, and many other animals’, homes uninhabitable.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.
By choosing to eat more plant-based foods, you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help slow the demise of the world’s wildlife.
For the sake of Arturo – and many, many more animals like him – the time to #EatForThePlanet is now.
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