LOCAL VIEW –Leafstrippers and Eagles–

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The storm is up in Canada now, and the winds have died down, but the trees were not so pretty at daybreak today.

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Notice the shutter hanging from the neighbor’s house. We got blasted by a leafstripper.  We moved from summer to winter in a roar.

Friday the wind was mild and southerly,  and the storm was brewing up over the Great Lakes, and for a time it seemed the heavier showers on its east side would move south to north to our west, over Vermont, and never progress east. I went to watch a grandson play a high-school soccer game, and a misty rain ended just before it started and then the entire game was played in various sorts of mild fog, ranging from thick and deep purple, as if thunder was coming, to light and colored like honey, as if the sun was about to break out. I was thinking a storm had to be coming, or else I was coming down with something, as my old bones were aching like crazy. It was foolish to stay out in the damp, but the game was well worth watching, especially as my grandson’s team won 2-1, with a heart-stopping shot by the opponents, in the final seconds, that squirted past our goalie and was dribbling towards the open goal before a frantically dashing defense-man  booted it away inches short of the goal line.

After all that excitement I just wanted to warm up by the fire, and sip some beer, and focus on writing, but the beer didn’t sit well in my stomach, which is not a good sign. I was starting to suspect my aching muscles might not merely indicate storm, though the Friday night sky filled with more pink lightning and sky-thunder than we got all summer. “So maybe it is the weather…” I suggested to my suggestible mind, trying to talk myself into being better.

I was incredibly stiff and sore Saturday morning, but it was my turn to cook at the Church’s men’s breakfast, so I dutifully trudged off and likely infected everyone there. I had no appetite, so I can’t have infected myself. Then I dutifully did dishes and dutifully trudged back home with one thing in mind: Going back to bed. However as I trudged up the stairs my wife’s lilting voice cheerfully reminded me, “We have to go to our CPR and First Aid re-certification class in half an hour. Goodness! I see no need for such language!”

Seldom have I been so dutiful and downright noble as I was, going back out into the rain to go to that class. Especially noble were my smiles at people as I entered the classroom. (Hopefully they weren’t too skullish). Then the minutes seemed like hours as I dragged through learning the same old stuff once again. The only amusement I find is noting where they change things. For example, tourniquets are back in style, after being frowned at for a bit. I suppose they figured the risk of choking off blood to an extremity was worth it, if the person didn’t bleed to death. Also teaching people CPR has been somewhat successful. When people collapsed of a heart attack, 98% of them used to die, but now only 85% do. Heart attack remains our leading cause if death.

The idea one should stop chest thrusts, and breath two puffs into the mouth of the victim, during CPR, is fading, as apparently people were getting brain damage from too much oxygen. This was learned from compating the results in cases where good Samaritans out on the the streets did the formal CPR, with cases where good Samaritans only did the chest thrusts because the idea of meeting lips with the patient seemed too yukky.

Instead in today’s classes  you pound the chest of the dummy twice as fast as you were suppose to in the old days. In the old days you were suppose to do it to the timing of “Another one bites the dust” (but never saying the words aloud) but now you are suppose to pound the chest 120 times a minute, pushing down two inches, which can break ribs, but only makes a little clicker click in the dummy, and also makes an old coot like me feel about ready to keel over, after 360 chest-thrusts or so. I wondered if maybe they’d have to practice CPR on a genuine specimen. All I can conclude is, if anyone’s heart ever quits on my watch, they had better revive in five minutes or we are both goners. However if you do the pounding that fast there is no need to breath into the mouth of someone who may have ingested poison,  as the commotion apparently stirs the air in the lungs enough to keep the blood oxygenated, even if no one in the class can pronounce the word “oxygenated”.

I didn’t get out until after 1:30, and by then the rain was cold and starting to drive. I was cold and wet by the time I got to the car, and as we drove home my wife didn’t much want to hear my opinion about bleepity-bleep state officials in nice warm offices, who never have to perform CPR, mandating others risk pneumonia by going out on a rainy Saturday when they ought to be in bed.

When I got home I couldn’t stop shivering, even under a warm blanket in a warm room, and I didn’t need a thermometer to know I’d got a fever spiking, despite gobbled aspirin. All I could do was set my jaw and prepared myself for the ride, which is never fun for me, as fever causes despairing to dominate my brain. Despite the wet weather, crimson leaves were swirling by my bedroom window and sticking to the glass.

In church we’ve been focusing on how those of faith will soar on new pinions like eagles. It seems a sort of Biblical version of the Phoenix, the mythical bird born again from its own ashes, but I was of so little faith I could only think I was getting the burning-up part right, but not the rest. After all, one of these days we will get sick and go down for the count, and when you are shivering and feeling worse and worse, and there is no improvement in sight, you hope for the best, but maybe part of you prepares for the worst. In any case, if I had to compare myself to a bird right then, it likely would not have been to a soaring eagle, but to a dead duck, blasted from the sky by a hunter.

I kept being woken from strange dreams by leaves spatting the window, and was confused it was daylight, and unsure what day it was…still today or already tomorrow? A long list of Saturday chores was being neglected. Out the window read and orange leaves kept blowing sideways, first one way and then the other, which let me understand the storm was growing into a leafstripper, and also brought Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem “The Last Leaf In the Tree” traipsing through my head. I memorized it long ago, and now it wouldn’t quit:

I saw him once before,
As he passed by the door,
And again
The pavement stones resound,
As he totters o’er the ground
With his cane.

They say that in his prime,
Ere the pruning-knife of Time
Cut him down,
Not a better man was found
By the Crier on his round
Through the town.

But now he walks the streets,
And he looks at all he meets
Sad and wan,
And he shakes his feeble head,
That it seems as if he said,
“They are gone!”

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that he has prest
In their bloom,
And the names he loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.

My grandmamma has said–
Poor old lady, she is dead
Long ago–
That he had a Roman nose,
And his cheek was like a rose
In the snow;

But now his nose is thin,
And it rests upon his chin
Like a staff,
And a crook is in his back,
And a melancholy crack
In his laugh.

I know it is a sin
For me to sit and grin
At him here;
But the old three-cornered hat,
And the breeches, and all that,
Are so queer!

And if I should live to be
The last leaf upon the tree
In the spring,
Let them smile, as I do now,
At the old forsaken bough
Where I cling.

Pretty sad stuff, and the violins of my self-pity might have nursed a few tears down my cheeks, but if I was going to going to cry about anything it was about my goats needing to be fed. That was one chore I couldn’t skip. But one joy of farming is that you get to go outside when others stay in, so I went out into the bluster and saw a few lava-like cracks in cloud-cover to the west, and also put up with a lot of nagging by seven goats who do not approve of late meals. Then I headed home to some hot soup, which I didn’t much feel like eating, and a granddaughter, who I didn’t much feel like watching (and who may have given me the ‘flu), and a movie about a pig I didn’t much feel like watching either, “Babe”. However as I sat I begrudged that I liked the movie, especially as the hero is an odd, old farmer who, in the end, is victorious, soaring on new pinions like eagles, albeit in a rather low-key and nonchalant way.

I was starting to shiver again and knew it was time for more aspirin and more bed, and so I handed off the sleepy granddaughter and took a dive in my pillow. Next thing I knew it was ten hours later. (I never sleep like that.)

I felt a bit better, so I took a long, hot shower and then tottered off to my duties as an elder at a tiny church, (listening with a certain, less-than-faithful cynicism to the stuff in the sermon about soaring on new pinions like eagles), and then tottered home and again dove into my pillow. I knew I had a long list of Saturday chores to catch up on, but if I am a eagle I am a recuperating eagle. Anyway, Sunday is suppose to be a day of rest. I concluded that actually I was spiritual to loaf, as I listened to the wind roar and the leaves, now drying, hush and scour by the window. I knew I’d have to eventually feed the goats, but drifted through dreams about last leaves on the tree, and people of my generation who are leaves who have already left the tree, and other morbid stuff, until I wondered if my life was passing before my eyes, and also was getting a tad fed up. I should be getting better by now. I should be soaring like an eagle by now.

By the time I finally budged I knew I’d get more nagging from my goats, but before I could leave the house my wife mentioned the stove was on the fritz and the oven didn’t work. Another chore. Then, as I headed to the farm I clicked on the radio, and was annoyed that I had forgotten all about the football game. I must be sick or something, to forget that! And even more aggravating was the fact the Patriots were ahead 14-0 when I turned the radio on, but the tide of the game shifted and it was soon 14-7, and then, as I listened at the farm with the heater on and the engine running, it became 14-10. And if that wasn’t annoying enough, I couldn’t even listen to the game in the privacy of my truck without a bunch of goats looking at me indignantly through the glass and nagging at the top of their lungs, until I replied, “All right all right all right ALL RIGHT”. (Animal Rights Activists please note: I did not use a single bad word.)

As I got out and looked around the farm seemed a shambles. Bags of trash were still in their bags, but the entire bags had been lifted clear across the yard and plopped in odd places.  Plywood was flung about and lawn furniture rearranged, but I just didn’t want to deal with that. Feeding the goats was enough for now. If I just rested a little more  I could surely show up for work early on Monday, and face the mountain of chores. As I drove home the Patriots lead shrank to 14-13.

When I was a boy I was ridiculously superstitious about my power to influence sporting events through my actions. My older brothers could drive me wild by switching the Red Sox  game from the AM station to the FM station, and then holding me back from the radio and forcing me to listen to the Red Sox blow another lead and again lose. (They nearly always lost, back then.) I was convinced the Red Sox would have been a first place team, (they always came in 8th or 9th), were it not for my brothers listening on FM.

I blame the fever, but some sort of echo of that nature returned as I shut off the radio in disgust and shivered. I just felt I must be doing something wrong, when nothing went right. I felt this way even though I know the reasonable and mature outlook is to see we live in a time of immediate gratifications, and if people look at the cards they are dealt, and don’t see a royal flush, they tend feel fate is cruel and God is unkind and to start up their violins, and that behavior is downright infantile. However, though I can think mature thoughts, I confess I still have an immature heart.

In any case I hunched out of my truck and went slogging through a profound gloom, stomping up the the front steps dejectedly, and then took a deep breath and prepared a fake smile. At the door I was met by a laughing daughter with a funny tale, a granddaughter hugging a better tackle than the Patriots were doing, a jealous, wagging dog that wanted equal attention, and the sight and smell of a roast chicken. I asked my wife, “How can you roast a chicken with no oven?” She explained her craftiness as we sat down to eat.

I have heard chicken is very good for sick people. It seems to have worked on me. I went back to bed, (after turning on the radio and learning the Patriots did manage to win,) and again slept like a log. But there no way around facing the music of Monday morning, and the fact that one chore I didn’t do was take down the summer awning at the front of the Childcare. 

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The awning was pivoted completely around on one leg, despite the legs being anchored by pins and bags of stones. One bag of stones was thrown ten feet away. Now that’s some gust!

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It gave me something to do, and an excuse to avoid going indoors and perhaps spreading residual germs to children. I chased down some missing lawn furniture and tidied up, and then the small boys came out and wanted to throw a football around. (Among six year old’s I’m still a star athlete.) I was huffing and puffing pretty quickly, but the fresh air likely did me good. Then the bus came, nine trooped off into it, and I drove a smaller bunch to kindergarten, marveling at how the wind had changed the landscape.

Fully half the leaves are gone in a single blow, but there’s still some left, and I seemed to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, and even to see there were some views I couldn’t see before, that were revealed, now that there were fewer leaves in the way. As I drove back from the kindergarten one view stopped me in my tracks, and I got out of the van to click a quick picture.

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And then, only because I was out of the van, I saw the big bird powerfully surging along the ridge-line. I was so awed I nearly missed my chance to take a picture.

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It was a bald eagle. Not an old one, with silver hair like mine, but a young one, brown-headed, and strong like no other bird. Their wings are straight out when they soar (Vultures hang from their wings in a “V”) and when they power with their wings they can cut through a gale. I never saw one in New England, until five years ago, and still get a thrill each time I see they are coming back.

Maybe I’m too old to believe in omens, but you have to admit it was a rather nice coincidence to see an eagle, just then.

In any case, I’m back. Did two simple jobs today that gained great kudos. Fixed a plugged toilet at the Childcare, and replaced a fuse that got the oven working at home. I like the jobs that are done in five minutes and gain you acclaim.  But…our world is held together by those who work long and hard unnoticed. They are the true eagles on whose backs the rest of us fly.

 

WHO IS SMARTER? SCIENTISTS OR POLAR BEARS?

(A blogger named “lectrikdog ” suggested this fragment of an earlier post should be a post all on its own, so I decided to take the advice.)

The thing that bothers me about typhoons is the same thing that bothers me about summer thunderstorms. It seems obvious to common sense that they uplift warmth and lose it to outer space, but common sense is, I have been told, wrong. By the time air is uplifted to the top of a powerful typhoon it has been chilled to -70°C, and air that cold has no heat left in it to lose. They can measure it with satellites, and the satellites show cloud tops at -70° are not radiating heat like a cloudless desert baked to +110°.  It makes sense to me. Obviously a cold stove does not radiate heat like a stove that is cherry red.

However my common sense simply doesn’t give a -bleep-. It knows a thunderstorm cools a summer day, and that is that. I don’t care if satellites can’t see any heat escaping. It is gone. (We have been going through a late summer heat wave here in New Hampshire, and a passing storm brought us wonderfully refreshing breezes today, even though the storm didn’t hit us.)

In like manner, my common sense knows typhoons cool the planet. Maybe I can’t explain why, but some things you just know. A small child might not understand electricity, but after sticking a fork into an outlet one time, the child has enough common sense to not repeat the experiment.

This morning I pointed out polar bears don’t care if scientists state there is no food out beyond the continental shelf, they go out there and get fat. Polar Bear healy-aug-24-2015-polar-bear-v-tim-kenna(Photo Credit: Tim Kenna)

In a way bears are smarter than scientists. And in a way I was nearly as smart as a bear, at age ten.

A half century ago my gang was faced with crossing thin ice, and many doubted the ice would support our weight. I was a ten-year-old leader, oldest and wisest. Somewhere I had learned ice can support more weight if you spread your weight out, so I lay down and slithered across the ice spreadeagled on my belly.  Flush with success, I turned, raised an index finger, and grandly pronounced, “This ice is safe!” I also was so filled with confidence that I stood up, and promptly plunged down waist-deep into ice-water, to the joy of the rest of the gang, who didn’t always approve of the egotism involved in my leadership.

Polar Bears may be worse egotists, for all I know, but they do not raise index fingers and make ridiculous pronouncements, most likely because they don’t have index fingers and can’t talk to the verbose degree we can. Scientists, on the other hand, do have index fingers, and make a lot of scientific pronouncements, and can be verbose.

After making careful measurements of the load-bearing ability of ice, and the weight of a polar bear’s massive paws, and consulting engineers who know far more about such stuff than they do, they pronounce ice cannot hold up a bear. (They are much like my gang once was.) The bear doesn’t care. Even though they often swim ice water that would freeze a man in 300 seconds, and have been known to cross hundreds of miles of open water, they apparently don’t always like to get wet, if they don’t have to. So, when they get to thin ice they do exactly what I did at age ten:

A polar bear slides across thin Actic Ocean ice Aug. 21, 2009.

(Photo Credit: Patrick Kelly)

In short, some scientists need to get out more. They have no actual experience of the outdoors. They spend far too much time glued to computer screens, and despite the exactitude of their measurements, Polar Bears are smarter than they are.

(A hat-tip to http://polarbearscience.com/ , which is a wonderful (and perhaps the best) source of information about bears, and to http://iceagenow.info/ ,  which often includes tales of arctic wildlife unnaturally far south, among headlines and links to stories of arctic weather the mainstream media seems inclined to shun.) (The view of the fat bear taken by Tim Kenna was from the Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, now approaching the Pole. Learn more here: http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2015/08/24/moving-into-the-realm-of-the-polar-bear/  and here: http://polarbearscience.com/2015/08/25/arctic-basin-polar-bears-researchers-spot-fat-pregnant-female-from-icebreaker/#more-68092

Barely Bearable —Media silliness regarding Polar Bears—

I have pretty much avoided the topic of polar bears, in my discussions about arctic sea ice, because right from the start I saw them as a sort of media icon, even a false god, and simply didn’t think they had much to do with the weather at the North Pole. And they don’t. When I’ve mentioned polar bears it is primarily because they are opportunistic feeders, and when scientists place the cameras and buoys I like so much out on the sea-ice, such scientists run the risk of becoming a bear’s snack. So actually it is only to emphasize the guts of those scientists that I bring up the topic of bears.

Bears do mess up my observations. Initially they just tracked up the snow, adding a new variable to the plethora of variables that influence the melt. I was even tempted to call their footprints “unnatural”, back on October 15, 2012. Bear 1 np-last-year-bear-tracks-oct-npeo_cam2_20121015124807 And if that wasn’t bad enough, sometimes they got in the way of my viewing the ice.Bear 2 polarbearframe_zpsb90ba2d3And another time they not only left tracks, but some sort of booger on the camera lens,Bear 3 np-aug-6-8-footprints And from there it was a short step to just plain flattening the cameraBear 4 np-aug-6-9-camera-tipped And therefore it should be obvious that, as much as I might like to avoid the entire subject of bears, they refuse to be ignored.

Not that the media will let you ignore them. Bears seem part of their plan to get people behaving in a manner they think is politically correct, concerning the topic of Global Warming.

Bears are sort of cute, when viewed from afar, and if you can touch a person’s heart by showing a cute bear stranded on a dwindling iceberg, and suggest the cute bears are facing extinction due to the callous use of fossil fuels, then you don’t have to bother prove the ice is actually dwindling. The sentimental suckers are sobbing, and having so much fun blubbering and blowing phlegm into Kleenex, that science comes second.

Of course seals are also cute. Some might even argue they are cuter. And it just so happens that polar bears lurk by the holes in the sea-ice where seals surface to breathe, and brain them with a single swipe of a massive paw, and hook the unconscious seal up onto the ice with their huge claws, and then proceed to get their white fur red, gorging on the seal. But the media doesn’t show those pictures, because it fails to further the “cause”,  which is dependent on bears being “cute”.

People who live in the north are under no illusions about how bears get so fat in the spring, and how many seals they eat, and how bears also might eat a neighbor, if the opportunity arose. However Northerners are not in a hurry to tell tourists who come north to see bears that the bears aren’t so cute, or to scorn the media’s “cause”. After all, “the customer is always correct”, and you don’t want to offend the tourists. You need to quell the urge to roll your eyes, and instead nod and look sympathetic, as tourists speak blathering nonsense.

In like manner, scientists also don’t want to offend the customer, who is forking out the money that allows them to tramp about the arctic rather than working a Real Job at a Burger King. Some scientists have even taken it a step further, and do more than nod sympathetically. They produce ridiculous “studies” that further the “cause”.

For example, most bears are complete gluttons, when it comes to chowing down on cute seals, and by the time the ice melts away and they come ashore they are downright pudgy.Bear 7 polar-bear-nanortalik-05_henrik-hansen However that will not alarm the public.  It is better to find some elderly bear, who has trouble hunting and who is often robbed by young, punk bears, when he does catch a seal.Bear 5 stirling-and-van-meurs_2015-in-press-fig-1 This bear is not scrawny due to Global Warming. He is old, and guess what? When we get old we die. It may not be cute, but it happens to every human, and also to bears.

However if you are a scientist in need of funding, it may keep you alive a bit longer if you can make up some sort if link between old bears being skinny and fossil fuels. It will please the customer by supporting the “cause”.

Now it just so happens that a bear, waiting by a hole in the ice for a seal, may see a porpoise pop up, because porpoises are occasionally trapped by shifting ice into small areas they cannot escape, as escape would involve travelling too far under water without breathing. And, as I said earlier, bears are opportunistic feeders, especially if they are old and hungry. They do not become fussy, and say, “Sorry, I don’t eat porpoises.” They go ker-slam with a giant paw, and hook the flesh from the water.  doi:10.3402/polar.v34.26612 Now, scientists are also opportunistic feeders, when it comes to linking everything under the sun to Global Warming, and therefore there will eventually be a headline in the Washington Post, “Thanks Global Warming; Now Polar Bears Are Eating Dolphins.”

Of course, it helps if you can get a picture of an elderly, skinny bear by a porpoise carcass.doi:10.3402/polar.v34.26612 Perhaps it should be mentioned at this point (because the media won’t) that polar bears are at the top of the food chain, and therefore don’t die because of another animal, unless a man hunts them. So what do they die of?  What is the death-by-natural-causes for a polar bear?  It is starvation. Not cute, but a fundamental fact every polar bear scientist knows. Also a good many people who live in the north know it as well.

Therefore, when a scientist goes off the deep end and throws his integrity to the wind, producing a “study” that suggests old bears are starving due to Global Warming, all the other scientists know he has sold his soul. All the local people know he has sold his soul. And, even when they don’t want to offend the customer, or disrupt the gravy-train of funds for the “cause”, a sort of contempt leaks into the banter one hears, if one frequents arctic sites seeking information about sea-ice, as I do.

Perhaps people do recognize the difference between fiction for a “cause”, and truth. Perhaps there is even hope for the human race. For I keep seeing signs that the fiction created for the “cause” has passed some sort of limit, and credulity has been stressed beyond its bounds, and people can’t help themselves. They have started to burst out laughing.

Another example involves mother bears, and where they chose to have their cubs, which are definitely cute.Bear 9 svalbard-female-with-cubs_roy-mangersnes-wildphoto_june-23-2015 It turns out that a mother bear requires a solid foundation of sea-ice upon which to dig her den, within which she gives birth to her cubs and nurses them until they are big and strong enough to follow her about. Mother bears will not stand for shoddy ice, and if conditions are not suitable along the coast of Svalbard, they will head several hundred miles in seek of the proper ice, and perhaps build a den along the coast of Franz Josef Land. Then, if conditions improve by Svalbard the following year, they will head back.

However such simple truth does not feed the cravings of the “cause”. The “cause” demands a tragic tale of no baby bears being born on Svalbard one year, and a pointing finger jabbing at nasty, nasty fossil fuels as the culprit.  However who will be the scientist who will utter such nonsense?

You need someone to make a Jon Aars of themselves, who will prove his compassion with a touchingly tender picture of compassion for a baby bear. Bear 10 svalbard-cub-w-jon-aars_norsk-polarinstitutt_june-2015-article Ordinarily such nuzzling of a baby polar bear would be a quick way to get yourself killed. Where is the mother bear? Oh, I get it. She is laying drugged on the ice.

In any case, when the mother bears came back to Svalbard this year, Jon Aars had the decency to report the facts. Never mind that he got a lot of mileage, and caused all sorts of sobbing and a great increase in the consumption of Kleenex, a year earlier.

However the people who live up there do notice.  And they do care about their bears, even if it is only to usher a bear out of town.Bear 13 polar-bear-nanortalik-04_henrik-hansenBear 11 polar-bear-nanortalik-07_henrik-hansenBear 15 polar-bear-nanortalik-06_henrik-hansenBear 12 polar-bear-nanortalik-09_henrik-hansen

Such people know their own children are much cuter than polar bears.  When it comes to the “cause”, their children come first.

However the most delicious irony I chanced upon was in an article from up in Svalbard, where they were thrilled to have a mother bear raising rare triplets.  The local people were worrying about whether snowmobiles might upset the mother bear. During the discussion, the reporter produced the following wonderful observations

“Experience for example from Tempelfjord in 2013 shows that polar bears, including families with young offspring, do not necessarily suffer from frequent traffic. In that spring, a mother with 2 first year cubs spent several months in Tempelfjord, which was frequently visited by large numbers of groups. Respectful behaviour contributed to the well-being of the bear family, which was generally not visibly affected by traffic, but seemed to enjoy a good and healthy period, with regular hunting success.

Unfortunately, both cubs from 2013 are most likely dead by now. One died in Billefjord a short time after tranquilization for scientific reasons. There is no evidence for the tranquilization being the cause of the death, but the assumption is not far away.

The second one of those 2 cubs was most likely the one that was shot near Fredheim in late March 2015 by tourists in their camp. The bear had injured one person in a tent and was then injured with several bullets from a revolver. It was later shot by the police.

These observations indicate that a larger number of well-controlled tourists, with respectful behaviour, is less of a problem than a smaller number of visitors (including scientists) with more unusual activities, involving a higher risk. An interesting impression, as the public reception of tourists is generally much worse than that of scientists.”

In conclusion, I have decided that back when I avoided the topic of polar bears, I had no idea of all the fun I was missing.

A wonderful site, if you are interested in the topic of polar bears, and reality versus the “cause”, is:  http://polarbearscience.com/