Charismatic megafauna. It’s probably my favorite phrase to throw around when talking about the environment- first, because it makes me sound way smarter than I am, and second, because I love bringing the conversation back to these large and (seemingly) cuddly endangered species.
Yes, concentrating on charismatic megafauna isn’t going to solve Earth’s biodiversity crisis, but it’s not meant to. It’s meant to pull at the heartstrings (and purse strings) of Americans.
Careful photography and clever marketing show how even some of the Earth’s top predators can be vulnerable…especially to climate change. And there is no better example than the polar bear.
The polar bear lives close enough that Americans can feel a sense of kinship- and though most of us will never see a wild polar bear in our lifetime, they represent what little wilderness remains in North America.
Maybe the polar bear is the ideal face for climate change quite literally because of it’s face. The bear’s dark and distinctive wide-set eyes contrast its light fur and draws Americans in, allowing you to connect with them.
But in the end, it’s the bear’s color that sets it apart. The very color of the bear seems pure and harmless causing the beast to be further victimized. Not to mention that it is quite literally white. America’s Anglo Saxon, European history cannot be ignored, and though not everyone can relate the bear to their own skin tone, it can be related to America’s emphasis on white power. This being said, climate change not only threatens the polar bear, it threatens America.
Perhaps this is an over simplification, but from greeting cards to soda cans, the polar bear has pushed its way into America’s lifestyle quite seamlessly, and as such has been able to start a conversation about conservation. And if focusing on the polar bear means America taking a closer look at climate change, I’m all in.