Luís lived in the Arctic Circle with his parents who were researching the effects of global warming. Luís wondered about that as he went out for a walk. He didn’t think there was much global warming going on today. It didn’t feel warm to Luís, who was bundled up in a snowsuit, mittens, hat, and boots.
Luís came across a very large polar bear. She looked very sad, and Luís felt sorry for her, and so he went over to ask why.
The polar bear said she was sad because her habitat was shrinking.
“What’s a habitat?” Luís asked.
“Why, your habitat is where you live. The Arctic is my habitat,” responded the polar bear, Mika. “It is everything you see around you, the ice, and the sea, and the glaciers. It has food, shelter, everything I need to live a healthy life and raise a polar bear family.”
“Why is it shrinking?” Luís asked.
“Well,” Mika replied, “my habitat needs to be cold. I like it that way, and so do the fish I eat. But the climate around here is getting warmer.”
“I actually think it is plenty cold here!” said Luís. “But I know about global warming. My parents study that. It’s because of people cutting down rain forests and drilling deep into the earth to get coal and oil.”
Mika nodded sadly. “Take it from me, our winters are not what they used to be,” she said. “Winters are shorter now. Ice melts faster than it ever has before. That means that polar bears like me are running out of places cold enough to live, hunt, and raise our cubs. If we don’t have anywhere to live, we may vanish from the earth forever. And mine is not the only habitat that’s in trouble. Oceans are warming up. Wild forest lands are getting smaller. Many species are threatened because their world is changing so rapidly.”
“That’s awful,” replied Luís. “What is causing global warming?”
“The earth is warming up because of the way humans have used it. Like you said. Cutting down trees. Drilling into the earth. And, no offense, but, everyday things you do at home can contribute to global warming, and in turn hurt me, and my environment, even the whole planet.”
“Like what?” asked Luís. “I’m just a kid!”
“If you ride in a gas-powered car, or leave lights on in your house when you do not need them, everyday things like that,” said Mika. “Like having the heat up too high, or the air conditioning too low, taking long showers, and leaving computers and phone chargers plugged in on stand-by instead of shutting them off.”
“Those things hurt you?”
“Yes, they do. The energy to run all those devices, or to heat your water, or run your car isn’t free. It comes from oil or coal that is taken from the earth and burned in great, big factories. When the factories make fuel, they also make a lot of waste—pollution and chemicals that go into our air and water. Forests are cut down to make room for cattle that people want to eat or more space for people to live, work, and play.”
“I had no idea!” said Luís.
“Humans are just starting to understand the impact they have had on all the creatures’ habitats. But a while back, before most people were thinking about how they use our earth, I met a very concerned lady named Rachel Carson.
She came up here to the Arctic, and we had a very long talk. I told her there were strange smells in the air, and that the animals seemed to be sick.
“Rachel did a lot of research, and wrote a book called Silent Spring about chemicals used to get rid of bugs and help crops grow. She showed that these chemicals did not kill just bugs, but harmed many animals. The chemicals even killed songbirds. The book was so important that President Kennedy read it, investigated those chemicals, and had them banned. Rachel was really concerned about the environment. She spoke to the U.S. Congress, worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and taught at a college. Even though she is not alive any more, many friends of the earth still celebrate Rachel Carson’s birthday, May 27—and many Unitarian Universalist congregations celebrate it, because she was a UU.”
“I’m a UU!” said Luís excitedly.
“You are?” said Mika. “That’s wonderful! Many Unitarian Universalists are changing their human habits in ways that help the earth.”
“Really?” asked Luís. “I want to help, too. What can I do?”
“There are a lot of things you can do to help, Luís,” said Mika.
[Pause. Invite the group to try and guess what ideas Mika gave Luís. Then continue…]
Here is what the polar bear told Luís. “If you remember to turn off lights and unplug phone chargers when you are not using them, you will use less electricity. That helps. Wear a sweater inside when it’s cold, and you won’t need to turn the heat so high. Take short showers! It takes a lot of energy to heat water for a shower. Plus, you’ll save water that other species need, too—like those fish I like to eat!”
Luís wondered how a polar bear knew so much about humans’ habits! She told him to recycle everything he could, from plastic and paper, to clothes that had gotten too small, to electronics he didn’t play with anymore. “Take them to someone who can use them,” Mika said, “or make new things from your old stuff.”
Mika told Luís that the way polar bears use the earth fits right in with the other species that share their habitat. “For example, I always swim, or walk, or float on an iceberg to get where I’m going,” she said. “But humans use their cars a lot, and airplanes, and buses,” she said. “If you can walk, bike, or skate where you are going, that can help. Buy food that is grown or made near where you live and doesn’t have to ride to your town in a truck or a train that uses a lot of fuel. Remember, we are all connected in the interdependent web of life.”
“Gosh, Mika, I sure am glad I ran into you. I learned a lot about global warming and climate change.”
Luís went back to find his parents to tell them all he had learned, and to see if they could celebrate Rachel Carson day, too.