I saw my first polar bear of the trip before I even boarded my flight from Chicago to Winnipeg. Submerged in water up to its snout, it stared at me from a World Wildlife Fund poster hanging by the men's bathroom in Concourse F. Beneath the photo were the words "Be the voice for those who have no voice."
This is the way most Americans today experience polar bears: as a political symbol first and a flesh-and-blood animal second. That's partially because polar bears are natural spokes-animals for the effects of climate change: they're the Arctic's most iconic creature, and (to some people, from a safe distance) cute.
Officials have suspended the search for a hiker who went missing in the Sierra Nevada two weeks ago after an early winter storm. Larry Conn, 53, of Pacific Palisades, California, began what was to be a four-day backpacking trip in Inyo National Forest on October 19, the day before a snowstorm dumped 12 inches in the mountains. The eight-day search, involving some 56 people from multiple government agencies, three dog teams, and five helicopters, was hampered by rugged and wintery conditions. Nighttime temperatures drop to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and two searchers had to be evacuated by helicopter.
With public transportation crippled and traffic moving at a snail's pace in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Yorkers are rediscovering the joys of biking, either digging their old bikes out of the basement or buying their first one. “Yesterday we outsold our busiest summer Saturday,” said Emily Samstag, manager of Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn. “Our first customer walked in and said: 'The subways are down so I have to buy a bike.' That was standard all morning.” The shop sold 15 bikes on Wednesday. Normally they sell one every two weeks in October. Cycling advocates around the city are relishing the opportunity to get more New Yorkers interested in alternative transportation, handing out maps, offering technical advice at commuter-support stations, and setting up resource pages for novice cyclists in the post-storm period. According to Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives, the city experienced a 500 percent spike in biking during a 2005 transit strike. While that strike lasted only two days, there’s no telling how long New York’s transit system will take to fully recover from Hurricane Sandy.
The case against: There are still thousands of New Yorkers without food, shelter, or power. The 40,000-plus runners, 700-person staff, 10,000 volunteers, and millions of spectators could devote their time to restoring the city—not to mention the hundreds of police and other city officials needed for the race to run. Then there’s all the water and the food given to runners, which isn’t a good look with so much of the city is still without either. The generators being used for the race could supply electricity to 400 power-less homes. Plus, who knows if the city can handle the added traffic and congestion at this point?
In response to the opposition, marathon organizers have created “The Race to Recover,” a $1 million Sandy relief fund. But the initiative hasn't quelled a petition to postpone the race until the spring, which has nearly 14,000 signatures. The race is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. with the men’s wheelchair division.
After mounting opposition, Sunday’s New York City Marathon has been cancelled. According to reports, race organizers met this afternoon and came to the decision not to hold the race this weekend. This announcement comes after Mayor Michael Bloomberg's reiteratation early today that the marathon would happen, saying “We can give people something to cheer about in what’s been a very dismal week for some people.” It's not clear yet whether or not the event will be rescheduled. The race has been held every year since 1970.