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On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bearby Richard Ellis
Synopses & Reviews
Polar bears—fierce and majestic—have captivated us for centuries. Feared by explorers, revered by the Inuit, and beloved by zoo goers everywhere, polar bears are a symbol for the harsh beauty and muscular grace of the Arctic. Today, as global warming threatens the ice caps’ integrity, the polar bear has also come to symbolize the peril that faces all life on earth as a result of harmful human practices. Here, the acclaimed science writer Richard Ellis offers an impassioned and moving statement on behalf of polar bears—and all they stand for.
Ellis gives a vivid and brilliantly articulated picture of earth’s largest land predators—including their hunting, mating, and hibernation habits. Polar bears are exceptionally well suited for hunting—especially when it comes to ringed seals, their favorite prey, which they can smell from more than a mile away. But as the ice melts in the Arctic, the ability of polar bears to find food diminishes in spite of their incredible physical capacities. Some bears will vainly take to the water in search of ice on which to hunt, and many of them swim until they drown. In the past twenty years alone, the world population of polar bears has shrunk by half. Today they number just 22,000.
Still, On Thin Ice is an ode, not an elegy: Ellis reminds us that the extinction of the polar bear—and the disappearance of our ice caps—is not inevitable. While the killing of polar bears remains a matter of ritual solemnity among the Inuit, U.S. government officials continue to balk at placing the polar bear on the endangered species list because doing so would place the bears’ territory off-limits for oil drilling. As the polar bears’ habitat disappears beneath them, their survival rests entirely on our willingness to take such critical steps.
Urgent and stirring, On Thin Ice is both a celebration and a rallying cry on behalf of one of earth’s greatest natural treasures.
The polar bear—the magnificent and mythic inhabitant of the Arctic—has captivated our imagination for centuries. Now, with this amazing creature symbolizing the perils of global warming, acclaimed science writer Richard Ellis gives us an impassioned examination of its extraordinary life—and illuminates a path for saving it from extinction.
Ellis describes the largest of land predators in clarifying detail and elucidates its hunting, mating, reproduction, and hibernation habits. He explains its venerated place in Inuit culture and charts its normal lifespan. But he also reiterates the ways in which that lifespan is being shortened and perhaps altogether eliminated: with the ever-increasing loss of sea ice, the bear’s ability to hunt for food is continuously diminished. Over the past twenty years alone, the population of polar bears has shrunk dramatically and today numbers just 22,000.
Ellis discusses the U.S. government’s resistance to placing the polar bear on the endangered species list and makes clear that while the ideological and fiscal battles between oil excavation and conservation are waging, the polar bear is tumbling toward an extinction that is preventable.
Authoritative, urgent, vividly written, On Thin Ice is both a celebration and a rallying cry on behalf of one of the world’s greatest natural treasures.
A profile of the habitat and life cycle of the polar bear covers he species' venerated position in Inuit culture, its reproductive habits, and the environmental factors that are compromising its ability to survive.
About the Author
Richard Ellis is the author of more than a dozen books. He is also a celebrated marine artist whose paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. He has written and illustrated articles for numerous magazines, including Audubon, National Geographic, Discover, Smithsonian, and Scientific American. He lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
IIEuropeans “Discover” the Polar Bear (and the Bear Discovers Them)
III The Great Ice Bear
IV Polar Bear Nations
V The Eskimo and the Polar Bear
VII Hunting the Hunter
VII In the Zoo and at the Circus
VIII On the Whiteness of the Bear
IX Global Warming and the Bear
X Is the Polar Bear Doomed?
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