Do We Care About the Polar Bears?

The temperature is 54 degrees today, January 22 in Connecticut.  My son Shawn and I are playing basketball in t-shirts.

“Isn’t this weather awesome,” Shawn cheers as he makes a lay-up and leaps for the rebound, then dribbles a circle around me.

“It is.  But, it is odd and not normal.”

A Nor’Easter is blowing in tomorrow, all rain, no big dunes of white, drifting snow covering our pool for weeks.

“Why, why is it not normal?” my son asks, passing the ball to me and then yanking it out of my grip to run for another shot.  The ball circles the rim and drops in, swishing the net.

“Climate Change.  The Earth is getting warmer because of all the pollution.”

“What’s wrong with warmer weather?  Spring in the winter time sounds good to me!”

I am loving the weekend as well.  A perfect late March day in the dead of winter; muddy ground, the smell of moist earth, ducks swimming in the pond behind our house.  The bitter, biting cold has fled elsewhere and no one is missing it except for maybe the polar bears.

My basketball defense is terrible. My arms lurch towards Shawn trying to swat the ball out of his Michael Jordan hold.  Failing to keep the ball from another basket, I give a quick explanation to Shawn  on Global Warming.

“The polar bears are dying off because of Climate Change.  They are on the endangered species list.”

“Why,” asks my son, impatiently waving at me to pass the ball to him.

“The Earth is getting warmer and warmer.  It will continue to get warmer because we continue to pollute it which affects nature and animals.”

My son considers this, not having met a polar bear in person, just cartoons and photographs in books.  I suspect he is thinking that the polar bear is some far away creature hanging out at the North Pole with Santa Claus.  Finally he asks, “Do we care about the polar bears?”

I know he is weighing the pros and cons:  warm weather and extinct polar bears or freezing weather and lots of living polar bears.  I also am very conscious that maybe our basketball game should be just that, a light ball game on a Sunday and not a real life lesson.  However, January 22 is not just a warm day, but the second full day of our new president and my son’s question, ‘Do we care about the polar bears?’ makes me bristle, like a Trump sound bite polluting my family room.  I want my son to care about the polar bears so that he will be mindful of his carbon footprint or maybe just pick up his socks and stop taking a long shower.

“The polar bears live in the arctic and the warm weather is melting their icy habitat and that affects their food source and they are starving to death.  They are on the top of the food chain and if they die that impacts other nature.  If this continues, years and years from now we will lose all kinds of animals and vegetation and eventually humans.”

I am reminded of that creepy Matthew McConaughey movie where he is sent to outer space to see if another planet is inhabitable for humans because all of Earth has become a fruitless dust bowl.

My son is getting antsy, the basketball shoot-out between the two of us is waning.

“Mom!  You’re not even trying to block me or get the ball!”

“Alright, alright,” I know Shawn just wants to play.  It is the eve to another week of reading, drum practice, play rehearsals, 5th grade testing, fractions, cow eye dissection, and travel basketball. All this talk of polar bears is just another item to add to his list of things to think about.

“Maybe we’ll get a big snow storm next week.  We could use a snow day, right?”

Shawn perks up and shoots at the foul line, the ball whooshes through the hoop.

“How about I help with the recycling Mom?  And I’ll do a better job shutting off the lights.  Would that help the polar bears?”

I smile, “It’s a good start Shawn.”




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