This Exhausted Polar Bear Wandering a Siberian Suburb Is the Latest Face of the Climate Crisis
Update, June 20: The starving polar bear who has been wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk for four days was captured Thursday by wildlife experts from the Royev Ruchey Zoo, The Siberian Times reported. She is in a "dangerous state" after eating human garbage and will be flown to the zoo tomorrow for treatment, experts said.
When the bear was first sighted, some speculated she had traveled from the Arctic seeking food. Royev Ruchey experts now say that might not be the case: it is typically males who travel long distances, and her coat is cleaner than would be expected after such a journey. Instead, they think she might have been caught by poachers as a cub and raised in or near Norilsk for her pelt. Stronger punishments for polar bear poaching were put in place last year, which may have prompted her captors to release her, the experts said.
An exhausted, starving polar bear has been spotted wandering around the Siberian city of Norilsk, Reuters reported Tuesday. It is the first time a polar bear has entered the city in more than 40 years.
The bear was first seen Sunday evening in an industrial part of the city's northeast, environmental services official Alexander Korobkin told AFP.
"He is still moving around a factory, under observation by police and the emergency services, who are ensuring his safety and those of residents," Korobkin told AFP Tuesday.
Both BBC News and Reuters identified the bear as female.
The bear had wandered hundreds of miles from its Arctic habitat to reach Norilsk, an industrial city known for nickel production. More polar bears have gone on land to search for food as the climate crisis has been shrinking the sea ice they depend upon. Parts of the Russian Arctic are melting twice as fast as they were 10 years ago, a 2018 study found. This has led to more interactions between bears and humans.
In February, Russia's Novaya Zemlya islands declared a state of emergency after polar bears entered the settlement of Belushya Guba to scavenge for food. Around 52 bears were counted near the settlement starting in December, and they were not afraid to enter human homes or buildings.
What man is doing to the planet: polar bears on a rubbish dump in Novaya Zemlya, Siberia. How dispiriting. pic.twitter.com/NwBHDmg82l— PeterMurtagh (@PeterMurtagh) February 10, 2019
In 2016, polar bears besieged five scientists at a Troynoy Island weather station in the Arctic, interfering with their work and killing one of their dogs, BBC News reported.
Local wildlife expert Oleg Krashevsky told Reuters he wasn't sure why this particular polar bear had entered Norilsk, but said it was possible she had gotten lost, because she showed signs of poor vision.
The bear lay on the ground for hours at a time Tuesday, standing only sporadically to sniff for food. Her feet were covered in mud.
State wildlife experts will arrive in the city Wednesday to examine the bear, but Krashevsky said he wasn't sure what could be done for her, since she appeared too weak to return home.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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