Teens work to help save polar bears
Conservation » The two placed in a contest by creating games.
By Alicia Greenleigh
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 04/07/2009 02:12:52 PM MDT
Maxwell McLeod and Abrianna Peto show one of their… (Chris Detrick / The Salt Lake Tribune)
Holladay » Two Utah teens concerned about the possible effects of global warming have turned their attention to Canada’s arctic tundras, where the melting ice cap is endangering the survival of polar bears.
Max McLeod, 15, a ninth-grader at Midvale Middle School, and Abrianna Peto, a 16-year-old sophomore at Cottonwood High, were semi-finalists in Polar Bear International’s “Polar Bear Project,” which challenges students in the United States and Canada to create a 10-month-long community project focused on reducing carbon dioxide that involves research, fundraising and writing a paper.
Project Polar Bear “was a really great opportunity to talk to people about conservation, because it’s important to take action against global warming,” said Abrianna, who has always been a strong advocate for arctic bears, even creating a group called Polar Defenders that she hopes to register as a nonprofit. She discovered “Project Polar Bear” through volunteer work with Hogle Zoo.
PBI is a nonprofit created in 1992 by wildlife photographer Dan Guarvich. In addition to sponsoring the annual “Polar Bear Project,” the organization holds a leadership camp each fall for students from around the world, which Abrianna attended, to “help educate teens and to inspire them to make a difference,” according to the mission statement on PBI’s Web site.
“I was pretty excited about [the project] because I like working with animals and it’s just great talking to people about [global warming],” Max said.
From February to December, the two did research on weather patterns, the bears’ lifestyle and the crucial role ice plays in their survival. For instance, mother bears use the ice and snow to create dens to raise their babies, and also trap seals – bears’ main food source-- by waiting at the seals’ breathing holes in the ice.
“We learned that in 2007, a chunk of ice melted that was the size of Alaska, Texas and Washington combined, and that in 50 years, two-thirds of the [polar bear] population will disappear,” Abrianna said.
Max and Abrianna decided to used this information to create six games to help educate their peers and adults. They also raised $200 that will go toward replanting trees destroyed by fire. Central to their objective to decrease carbon footprints, the pair spoke to community businesses about using biodegradable Styrofoam, which only takes two years to break down, instead of a product that takes 200 to 500 years to degrade and makes up about 30 percent of landfills.
When asked what their plans are now that the project and competition is over, Max said he wants to continue to raise awareness about the danger polar bears are in, as well as the other environmental effects of global warming. Abrianna hopes to attract volunteers to work for Polar Bear Defenders, and to stay current on the latest developments with the arctic bears.
“We both think it’s really important just to keep going and to keep educating people about how global warming affects everyone,” Max said.
Go the Earth Jam
Max McLeod and Abrianna Peto will be at the environmental fair Earth Jam, to talk about ways to protect and improve the environment.
When » April 25-26, noon to 9 p.m.
Where » Liberty Park, 589 E. 1300 South, Salt Lake City.
How much » Free. For details, visit Home.
Info » For more information about Polar Bears International, visit Polar Bears International - Polar Bear Conservation Through Research and Education[/url]; for more on Abrianna’s group, Polar Defenders, go to [URL=“http://polardefenders.weebly.com/”]PolarDefenders.Weebly.com.