Steven Amstrup says it's not too late to save polar bears – and ourselves - Yahoo! News
Steven Amstrup, a senior scientist at Polar Bears International, has led a team of researchers that discovered that, contrary to expectations, even if all the sea ice in the Arctic disappeared, once the planet cooled back down, it would return.
"That was one of the great discoveries that allowed us to continue to instill hope in people that we could do something," Dr. Amstrup says. "Human nature is such that, if you think there's nothing you can do, you don't do anything. So this was a really important find."
That scientific discovery, published in 2010 in the journal Nature, is just one of the reasons that Amstrup was honored with this year's Indianapolis Prize, which is awarded every two years to a leader in the field of animal conservation. The winner receives $100,000 and the Lilly Medal.
Every month or so, he says, someone writes to suggest putting giant floating pieces of styro-foam in the Arctic for the polar bears. While both are white and float, styrofoam isn't capable of sustaining the ecosystem of algae and bacteria that grows on the underside of the ice.
Then there are logistical issues: "Two weeks ago, we had lost as much sea ice as 35 times the size of Indiana. How much styrofoam can we make?" Amstrup asks.
To change course will require people to change the way they live to reduce usage of carbon-based fuels, he says, citing things such as having well-insulated homes, energy-efficient furnaces and vehicles, and supporting businesses that engage in sustainable practices.
The biggest step, he says, is to find policymakers at all levels of government willing to entertain changes to people's throwaway lifestyle. "The critical thing is that polar bear conservation can't occur in the Arctic," he says.
Amstrup and his wife are building an energy-efficient home in northeast Washington, where they will grow their own fruits and vegetables. He also plans to hunt white-tailed deer and turkeys for food. Some of his prize money will go toward solar panels for their home and to replace their aging pickup trucks with fuel-efficient vehicles.