The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Daniel Kessler, 970.690.2728

As Arctic Sea Ice Reaches 2008 Low, Street Art Highlights Shared Fate of Polar Bears, Humanity


With Arctic sea ice at near record lows, Greenpeace today unveiled a collaborative art project with well-known street artist Mark Jenkins to highlight the shared plight of polar bears and humanity in the face of global warming.

Jenkins, a D.C. based artist who creates sculptures primarily from packing tape, has earned international recognition for his street art installations, many of which feature astoundingly realistic human figures.

For this series, Greenpeace and Jenkins added polar bear heads and ragged clothing to these figures to dramatize how global warming is making polar bears homeless by causing the sea ice they rely on to melt, threatening many polar bear populations with extinction. The fourth piece in the series, featuring a homeless bear foraging in a trash can, was deployed Tuesday. It coincided with an announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center that Arctic sea ice has reached its second lowest annual extent in recorded history. The Arctic sea ice has fallen to a low of 1.74 million square miles in September, roughly 860,000 square miles below the long-term average.

"That's an area of polar bear habitat three times the size of Texas lost this summer as a direct result of global warming," said Carroll Muffett, Deputy Campaigns Director for Greenpeace. "Our intent with this project was both to communicate in human terms how that global warming is affecting the polar bear and to highlight the very real connection between the polar bear's fate and our own."

Rising tides and severe storms intensified by global warming have already displaced millions of people around the world, from Galveston to Gambia. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that millions more will be displaced by global warming in the next few decades as a result of rising sea levels, extended droughts, and more extreme weather events that force migrations and make returning difficult or even impossible.

"My intention with this project was to raise awareness of global warming and the plight of the polar bear," said Jenkins. "Our destinies are bound closely together."

To date, four sculptures have been deployed throughout the Washington, DC area, in locations chosen to reach a variety of audiences and address different aspects of the global warming crisis. One bear bore a sign reading "S.O.S.", a second was accompanied by signs saying "Victim of Oil Addiction" and "Global Warming Refugee. Help a brother out?"

Today's release also coincided with a Congressional vote that would further accelerate fossil fuel use and global warming by lifting a longstanding moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

"Just as we have delayed action to protect the polar bear, we have too long delayed action to protect our own species from the threat of global warming," Muffett said. "Instead of locking us into greater reliance on the fossil fuels that are polar bears and people homeless, Congress needs to create prosperity through a clean energy revolution. We hope this project helps people better understand that reality."

Greenpeace is a global, independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

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