Climate change, polar bears and the need for a responsible consumption
The polar bears of Antibes In the middle of last July, a controversy rocked the city of Antibes, a town in southeastern France on the Mediterranean Riviera. It was about two polar bears (Rasputin and Flocke) in Marineland, a theme park spread across 26 hectares. Marineland belongs to the Spanish multinational company Parques Reunidos, and is home to a marine zoological park which includes a dolphinarium, a water park (Aquasplash), a Kid’s Island, a mini golf (Adventure Golf) and a three-star hotel (Marine land Resort).Pierre Robert de Latour, president of the Undersea Soft Encounter Alliance (USEA)-Killer Whales Without Borders, denounced the captivity of these animals which, according to him, amounted to “ill-treatment”. Several animal welfare associations were of a similar view, believing that the two polar bears should be returned to their natural habitat, namely the Arctic region. To the radio news channels, France Info, which asked Latour if these animals were not happy, he replied:
“They can’t be happy. For us, the captivity of these animals is an abuse in itself. Even though these animals are cared for, fed and do not suffer physical violence, whether we are talking about polar bears, killer whales or dolphins, they have nothing to do in such small spaces; these animals are made to travel across hundreds of square kilometers. They are in an enclosure of 2,200 square meters, it’s just ridiculous. They live in conditions which are very far from their natural environment, already in terms of the space available to them…they cannot live their lives as predators. They are given meat, but they cannot hunt. And especially the temperature, in summer, imagine…”.
As the president of the USEA led his “revolt” against the living conditions of these animals, France was sweltering in hot weather that exceeded 40 degrees in some areas of the country. The Marine land administration responds that Rasputin and Flocke have access to an ice cave, an air-conditioned room and a pool whose water is kept at a temperature of 14 degrees. Latour was also angry at the fact that although humankind may be trying to maintain the species, by ensuring their reproduction, it is at the same time destroying their natural habitat. He added:
“This breeding program serves only as a justification to keep these animals in captivity so that the public can have access to them and thus make a fairly substantial income for the owners… These are predators, they transmit their way of living, their knowledge from generation to generation. If a mother cannot teach her cubs to hunt, this culture is lost. And it does not help to keep the genetic strain on one side, if on the other hand this cannot be used to repopulate a territory”.
Latour proposed that Raspoutine and Flocke be transported to zoos in Scandinavia, “provisionally”, until the establishment of a real rehabilitation program. Our “duty,” he added, is to preserve natural environments.
Of the relationship of human beings to animals
To this perhaps unrealistic humanistic vision, two images can be contrasted: those of the cubs Neela and Nobby in captivity in the Munich Zoo, which are growing up in a protective environment (https://www.youtube.com/watch ? v = Ri4j4Q4T5zg); and another one, very disturbing: at the end of July, more than 50 polar bears were spotted scavenging in BelushyaGuba, a small town on the Gusinaya Zemlya peninsula of the Yuzhny Island of the Novaya Zemlya arctic archipelago in the Russian Federation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwPIGP7eB7I). The time to act is therefore upon us, both for these animals and for the populations living on the margins of the areas that until recently had formed part of the habitat of polar bears. It is our relationship to the whole of our environment, as climatologists state, that we have redefine – and quickly.
Without considering the question of the conservation of species that would satisfy our instinct of “collector” according to the expression of the French novelist Patrick Modiano, author of Boulevards of the belt, Alain Mabanckou, in Memoirs of a Porcupine, for his part, writes:
Considering the issue of climate change of which the fate of polar bears is one of the saddest demonstrations, it is also time to call out the advertisers; their spots target even children without much defense who, in turn, pressurise their parents
“So I am only an animal, an animal of no value whatsoever, men would say a wild beast, as if there were nothing more stupid and wild than us in their species, for them I am nothing but a porcupine… I am forty-two years old, I still feel very young, and if I were a porcupine like those which hang out in the fields around this village, I would not have had such a long life since…we can live at best until we are twenty-one years old when we are in captivity, but what interest is there in spending our life in slavery, what interest in imagining freedom from behind a barbed-wire fence”.
In The Malay Archipelago published in 1869, the British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist, and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, contemplating the environment in which he found himself, wondered about what he called this “thing of beauty”. He referred in particular to the animals that populated the island.
“I thought of the long ages of the past, during which the successive generations of this little creature had run their course-year by year being born, and living and dying amid these dark and gloomy woods… It seems sad that on the one hand such exquisite creatures should live out their lives and exhibit their charms only in these wild, inhospitable regions, doomed for ages yet to come to hopeless barbarism; while on the other hand, should civilized man ever reach these distant lands, and bring moral, intellectual, and physical light into the recesses of these virgin forests, we may be sure that he will so disturb the nicely-balanced relations of organic and inorganic nature as to cause the disappearance, and finally the extinction, of these very beings whose wonderful structure and beauty he alone is fitted to appreciate and enjoy”.
Wallace adds that the existence of animals, which “has gone on independently” from that of man, “is disturbed or broken by every advance in man’s intellectual development”. As for the animals, “their happiness and enjoyments, their loves and hates, their struggles for existence, their vigorous life and early death, would seem to be immediately related to their own well-being and perpetuation alone, limited only by the equal well-being and perpetuation of the numberless other organisms with which each is more or less intimately connected”.
It is for to climatologists to gauge the scale of climate change. The historian of public opinion mostly reflects on the excessive consumption that has taken over most societies of the planet, with status and social prestige often an artefact of the acquisition of new objects or clothing; women are, moreover, the prime targets of the market. In The consumer society. Its myths. Its structures published in 1970, the French sociologist and philosopher Jean Baudrillardpoints out that “the accumulation, the profusion”is the most striking feature of such a society.
“The department stores with their luxuriance of canned food, clothing, food and clothing are like the archetypal landscape and the locus of abundance … There is something more in the pile of goods than the sum of the products: the proof of surplus, the magical and definitive negation of scarcity, the maternal and luxurious presumption of a land of plenty. Our markets, our commercial arteries thus mimic a restored and prodigiously fertile nature…The violent hope that there will be not only enough but too much and too much for everyone, is there”.
In conclusion, we will briefly mention a phenomenon that is still very marginal: that of committed consumption. This new form of citizen participation is now taking place in supermarkets, but could change our view of the consumer society and the happiness that we were long told itwas supposed to bring us.Considering the issue of climate change of which the fate of polar bears is one of the saddest demonstrations, it is also time to call out the advertisers; their spots target even children without much defense who, in turn, pressurise their parents.But most importantly, let us dare to say, we women have a big role to play, resisting the stalls that try to constantly tempt us to consume; our cupboards are already full; when will we stop buying?
This article was originally published at:
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.