U.S. government may decide fate of iconic species

This photo courtesy and copyright: IFAW.This is about polar bears and their survival.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor on

This photo courtesy and copyright: IFAW.

This is about polar bears and their survival. For the folks who may ask, what's this got to do with ZDnet and green tech, let me repeat an answer I gave recently to an emailer when I blogged about the possible extinction of Antarctic penguin species.

Green Tech is going to be dependent on an infusion of investment. One factor that affects investment is an educated guess about its chance of success and that often depends on regulations, de-regulation, government subsidies, laws and restrictions. Just take a look at the trajectory of the recycling industry in America over the past forty years. Perfectly fine technologies may fail if there is no public desire, social need or other compulsion to use the technology. And much of Green Tech is not immediately or obviously more economical than existing tech. Most Green Tech takes significant capital investment, infrastrucure, etc. It's more complicated, takes more hardware, than a new web app or piece of code. Again, look at recycling. Throw it away is often cheaper for the consumer. It's the folks who calculate the calculus of landfills who can really say, let's recycle that.

We may not like this but in America, Europe and perhaps even in China, the future of Green Tech is going to depend on politics and marketing. I would posit that there may not be a better logo or icon for global warming activists than the polar bear. The glamorous Peregrine became the poster species for banning DDT which was bad for all kinds of reasons. I can easily see the polar bear paw-in-flipper with the penguin. Arctic icon with Antarctic icon, side-by-side, in campaigns to stop greenhouse gas emissions...and that could lead to regulations, susbsidies and consumer action.

Now, finally, here's the item

The U.S government as it now exists holds the immediate fate of the polar bear in its hand. Alaska is one of the best habitats for the polar bear so what the U.S. decides to do really matters. The bears also live in Canada, Greenland and central Siberia (that's Russia).

Currently it's not legal to hunt polar bears in Alaska, but American trophy hunters can go into Canada to bag their fanged white bear rug. Imagine being the only guy in your golf foursome to have a genuine polar bear skin and fangs on your family room floor. How cool is that?

The IFAW, International Fund for Animal Welfare, says the difference between Endangered and Threatened status under U.S. law is crucial. Threatened would allow continued trophy hunting. Now can you imagine this American government telling American gun owners and hunters they cannot go into friendly Canada and bag one of the world's only white bears? That would be like taking away Dick Cheney's beloved shotgun. Should we place bets on what the outcome of this ruling will be?

Want to see the Dept. of Interior's documents on the polar bear's status? They were first posted a year ago, Jan. 9...and with its usual care and careful consideration the American government has used the entire year to gather far more information and weigh all the ...blather, blather, blather. This is a highly political decision because the polar bear is more photogenic than the President, the Veep or any of the Cabinet... so expect the ruling late on a Friday night, say right before New Year's when all the real news anchors are on vacation.

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