The environment is a very essential element to all living organisms, including animals and human beings. It however requires proper care or handling in terms of conservation to ensure sustainability which in turn makes it conducive for growth as well as prosperity of all organisms that depend on it.
Animal rights on the other hand entails the perception that other animals, apart from human beings, should be accorded the rights they deserve in regard to their interest and what is good for them as opposed to just looking at what interests human beings at the expense of animals suffering. It is a concept that has been faced with a lot of controversy with different people having varying views.
This piece of work looks at animal rights and the environment with much emphasis being given to Polar Bear and the environmental issues that surrounds it for instance global warming and human activities like hunting and pollution. It also looks into the attitudes that people have towards the environment including the values that add force to those attitudes. The impacts of the attitudes and values on the way people treat the environment will also be highlighted.
Polar bear is a well known animal. It is ranked as the largest bear and the worlds largest land carnivore and hence so much importance is attached to it, especially in regard to tourism, due to its unique characteristics. Its physical characteristics are an adaption for cold weather and for across ice, snow as well as open water.
They are also known for hunting as a way of getting food to sustain themselves. Polar bears are born on land but spend most of their lifetime at the sea. Like any other kind of animal, the polar bear is dependent on the environment for basic aspects like accommodation and food and any form of disruption of the environment affects it negatively.
Polar bears have been classified among the susceptible or endangered species. According to Johnson (2006), approximately eight out of 19 polar bear subdivisions are in the decline and hence at a risk of extinction. This has been linked to numerous factors and activities with the leading one being hunting. For this reason, various steps, laws, control measures and movements have been laid down in an effort to safeguard them and prevent chances of extinction.
The impact and scope of the environmental problem
There are various environmental problems associated with the existence and development of the polar bear. They include aspects like global warming, deforestation in search of land for settlement and agriculture as well as charcoal burning, pollution and hunting among other environmental issues. Global warming has become an environmental issue as days pass by and people continue interfering with the natural setting of the environment and its constituents.
It entails the increase in temperatures in the atmosphere. It is mostly fueled by human activities which in one way or the other contribute to production of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for instance through deforestation and pollution which could be as a result of various emissions for example from industries and vehicles as well as burning of fossil fuels.
Global warming is a factor of climate change on the negative side. Adverse climate change affects all living organisms negatively by interfering with their growth and sustainability as it affects aspects such as oxygen circulation in the atmosphere as well as in the seas and oceans, the amount of rainfall received and effects of radiation as a result of destruction of the ozone layer.
Global warming affects the existence of the polar bears through the effects it has especially on the oceans and seas, from which the polar bears get food, through hunting. Deforestation is also another environmental issue that affects the polar bears. Being animals that live on land and forests to be specific, the existence of forests and their constituents is a key issue that contributes to their survival.
This is through conducive environment offered by the forests as well as accommodation. Just like human beings, polar bears are affected by pollution and its effects. Pollution could take various forms for instance air pollution, water pollution, soil/land pollution as well as noise. Tourism is another aspect that has affected the environment in general and the existence of the polar bears in particular.
This is especially where the tourism activities in a given region exceed its capacity limit for instance in terms of the visitors who can visit an area at a time. This leads to over exploitation of the resources that are necessary for sustainability of both the environment and the organisms contained therein.
Hunting is nonetheless the major issue that threatens the existence of the polar bear and increases their rate of decline hence leading to their extinction. This is so because hunting has been carried out in large scale to an extent of raising not only local but also international concern and intervention (through controls and quotas) for the sake of conserving the species for the future.
Hunting of the polar bear has for a long period of time been a key aspect for the indigenous people in the Arctic region. This is because they have considered polar bear as a very crucial source of which include things such as fur used for clothing and footwear, meat, fat for lighting households as well as for food, sinews and other body parts such as the heart and gallbladder which are manipulated through drying, powdering and proper storage and used for medicinal purposes among others.
Any measure that is put forth in an effort to either control hunting or avoid it completely has therefore been received negatively and with a lot of resistance. A good example to illustrate the scope of hunting as an environmental problem that is associated with the polar bear is to look at its nature in Canada and the United States of America.
In Canada, it is estimated that approximately 500 polar bears get killed by the people living in the country through hunting each year. This has been linked to the fact that Canada has had very lenient regulations in regard to hunting, giving people a lot of freedom to do what they wish.
All in all, this is an alarming number that calls for some actions to be taken if the future of the polar bear species is to be kept at a sustainable level for the sake of both the current period as well as the future. In the United States of America, the situation is not any better. Hunting has been associated with decline in the number of polar bears in this nation.
In the year 2008 for example, polar bear was identified as a vulnerable species, an aspect that led to its inclusion in the endangered species Act that governs all species that are deemed to be at a risk of extinction. Following this Act, all activities in relation to polar bears were banned especially importation of polar bear products such as trophies (Hemstock 1999).
These examples are enough evidence that hunting is a threat towards the existence and prosperity of polar bear in any given region. This therefore necessitates that strict actions be taken in regard to conservation of the environment through advocating for environmental friendly operations that ensure that none of the parties involved, be it the human individuals, the animals or even the ecosystem at large, suffer from the activities that would otherwise be avoided or carried out in an appropriate manner.
The nature of the environmental problem
Human beings are the major elements that are associated with both the positive and negative impacts on the environment and hence the effects on living organisms that exist in the environment for instance the polar bears. This is through the practices people are involved in, with respect to how they live, work and their general consumption patterns.
The increase in population growth for instance has had lots of adverse effects on the environment as it is linked with the encroachment of the marginal areas as the number of people exceed the available land, it also leads to over consumption of natural resources for example the forests as sources of fuel and in the long run leads to pollution due to production of waste products for instance through charcoal burning.
The lack of dependence on agriculture and shift to other sectors has also led to which affects the environment adversely due to inadequate water and sanitation services, deterioration of transport systems and shortage of appropriate housing facilities. All these factors lead to pollution (air, soil and water) and land degradation.
Human modifications to the environment have led to loss of wildlife like the polar bears, acid rains, and the depletion of the ozone layer due to excess pollution and deforestation which destroys biodiversity. Industrialization and modernization in the Arctic have also been deemed to have adverse effects on the environment for instance deterioration of the quality of air caused by the emissions from industries and plants as well as vehicles.
The wastes from industries also affect the quality of water because in most cases they are directed to the sources of water such as rivers, seas and oceans. The utilization of fossils as a source of energy has also led to depletion of natural resources and global warming due to greenhouse gases (Gottlieb 2004).
Although human beings and their activities is deemed to be the be the main factor associated with the general environment and animals and their rights in particular, as discussed above, the consequences brought about by their actions are far more engaging and they affect a variety of elements including the human beings themselves, the animal species therein as well as the ecosystem in one way or the other.
Attitudes and values involved
Peoples attitudes and values towards polar bear are usually based upon how harmful or beneficial they consider them to be. According to Shellenberger and Nordhaus (2005), the decisions we make in regard to how we handle or rather manage polar bears is dependant upon our attitudes as well as values towards the polar bears.
He further asserts that since the polar bears are also associated with some adverse effects towards the human kind, there is a need for them to to a majority of people as a way of countering these effects. The issue of animal rights has been faced with a lot of controversy of whether it is justifiable.
Although the idea of advocating and maintaining some rights upon animals have been supported by a considerable number of individuals and groups, it has also been criticized negatively with some arguing that animals should not be awarded any rights since they are not able to form any and they have no moral responsibilities or obligations.
Criticism also comes from the responsible bodies like the animal rights movement. People also argue that there is absolutely nothing wrong or rather unethical in all processes and activities that are aimed at using animals as resources and neglecting their rights as long as the activities do not cause any unnecessary suffering or pain to the animals and in the same time, they bring considerable benefits to the human kind.
Polar bears are known to be very friendly, clam and timid and hence they generally pose no threats to human beings. Their nature has however led to human beings engaging in excessive hunting as they do not consider them to be harmful. It is however evident that most individuals are willing to change their negative attitudes towards the polar bears in an effort to maintain a healthy relationship and more so ensure sustainability of the now scarce species.