What do you get when you cross a polar bear with a grizzly?
If it was clear to David and Bella Kuptana what had happened to their hunting cabin on Victoria Island in the Arctic Archipelago last spring, it’s because there was a bear-shaped hole in the wall. Tracing the frozen coastline on snow machines, they found five more cabins in a similar state of ruin; behind one that appeared untouched, they spotted the rogue, making a break for the open plain.
David, who took down his first polar bear when he was nine years old and has killed as many as three a year since then, felled the animal with his first shot, and immediately knew something was wrong. Its head was unusually wide, and its paws were brown. Except for all that matted white fur, it looked more like a grizzly.
It’s been a tough couple of years for the shipping industry. First there was the recession, which led to almost 12 percent of the world’s cargo ships spending last December empty and anchored. The industry has also come under fire by environmentalists for its contributions to climate change and air pollution.
At December’s Copenhagen summit, the group Climate Justice Action (CJA) staged a protest outside the headquarters of Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies. While shipping may be a worthy target—it’s responsible for two to five percent of global CO2 emissions—going after Maersk was a strange choice. Even the CJA’s factsheets acknowledged the company’s green initiatives.
Among other things, Maersk has been developing a long-known but little-used practice called “slow steaming.” When big cargo ships slow down, they can sometimes run more efficiently. While each journey takes longer, the practice cuts CO2 emissions by 10–30 percent, and for the largest vessels it’s equivalent to saving 3,500 tonnes of fuel each year.
From a distance, I assume the limp figures falling from the sky are people. Then the camera draws closer, and I see that they are polar bears, hurtling towards a generic metropolis, bouncing off buildings and leaving behind stomach-turning splashes of blood. They land, by the dozen, and lie still.
“An average European flight produces over 400kg of greenhouse gases for every passenger,” I read. “That’s the weight of an adult polar bear.”
Only then do I realize that I’ve been watching an ad about climate change, from U.K. anti-aviation campaigners Plane Stupid. The spot has been developed for cinemas. But in the slick streets of the Internet, it’s hard to say whether the gore will land where it is supposed to.