By Bill Steigerwald
“Junior gets brainwashed”
Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.
– Polar Bears International
TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND
“Guess what I learned today?” Junior asked as he came running in from school.
“I can’t imagine,” Grandpa mumbled.
“Shush, Dad,” said Mother. “What did you learn, Junior?”
“I learned all about ‘global melting,’ ” Junior began breathlessly. “The whole world is getting hotter because humans drive too many cars. The sea ice is going to go away forever and — ”
“Whoa!” interrupted Grandpa. “Who taught you that stuff? Rosie O’Donnell?”
“No,” said Junior. “Principal Hansen. She came to homeroom today. Her big computer says Earth is getting hotter and hotter and Greenland is melting really, really fast. All the ice will be gone when I get as old as you.”
“That’s preposterous,” Grandpa said.
“Principal Hansen said the oceans will get taller and taller,” Junior said with a worried look on his face. “Principal Hansen said polar bears and lots of other animals will get ‘stinkt if humans keep burning stuff like coal. It’s really scary, Grandpa.”
“Principal Hansen’s even crazier than Al Gore,” Grandpa said to Mother so Junior couldn’t hear. “Didn’t I tell you that boy should have been home-schooled?”
Later that same night, after midnight, Grandpa was at his desk sending his usual round of disparaging e-mails to the politicians in Washington when Junior’s cry pierced the stillness.
“Grandpa!” Junior wailed. “Help me. I’m burning!”
Grandpa and Mother raced to Junior’s bedside. Junior was crying in his sleep. “Help me, Grandpa,” he pleaded mournfully. “I’m too young to melt.”
“Junior, wake up,” Grandpa said, shaking him. “You’re dreaming.”
Junior’s eyes popped open. “Grandpa! Mother! The ice was all gone! We were stuck on a tiny iceberg. The ocean was boiling!”
“It was just a silly nightmare, Junior,” soothed Mother. “The ice isn’t melting. See?” she said, patting the rock-hard wall of their cave.
Grandpa was fuming. He gritted his big teeth and looked Junior straight in his teary eyes.
“Boy,” he said firmly, “I’m going to tell you something I want you to remember for the rest of your life. We are polar bears. We are the largest land carnivores on Earth. We are the species ursus maritimus – ‘bears of the sea.’ We can swim 200 miles. We can walk 100 miles a day.
“We learned how to live on this frozen wasteland at the top of the world thousands of years before humans discovered fire. There are 25,000 of us alive today – twice as many as 50 years ago. We are not going to become extinct – no matter what Principal Hansen and her computers say. Now go to sleep – and no more silly nightmares.”
“That was no nightmare,” Grandpa whispered angrily to Mother. “That boy’s being brainwashed by a bunch of kooks.”
“That’s all the schools teach,” said Mother. “It’s like a new religion. Every cub I know thinks the ice will be gone before they grow up. All the mothers are complaining.”
Grandpa was fuming. “Polar bears having nightmares,” he snarled. “That’s pathetic. It’s time somebody stood up to lunatics like Hansen and their doomsday stories.”