At what point do we, as stewards of this earth, stop selling out the sacred gems of our unique biosphere in the interest of greed and dirty energy fuels? This article turns the focus to one of our animal brethren, the spirit bears of British Columbia, who inhabit The Great Bear Rainforest. After many years of passionate effort, the need remains urgent to protect one of our planet's most beautifully pristine and delicate ecosystems.
Princess Royal Island in British Columbia is the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. It is believed to be the epicenter of the gene that produces the white bear, also known as the Kermode bear, and which the people of the First Nation revere as the sacred "spirit bear." The Gitga’ Tribe calls the spirit bear "mooksgm’ol." They are a walking contradiction—a white black bear.
The spirit bear is a genetically unique subspecies of the black bear, found only in this small area on Canada’s west coast, with numbers fewer than 400 and possibly even fewer than 200. It is believed that because of its color, the white bear plays a critical role within the nutrient cycle that upholds one of the largest "land carbon sinks in the world"; meaning that The Great Bear Rainforest of which the spirit bear is an integral part is a natural absorber of the high levels of planetary carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. With most of the spirit bear's habitat having been developed, one last complete ecosystem large enough to sustain its gene pool remains intact in an area known as "the Land of the Spirit Bear." It must be protected in order to sustain the delicate ecological balance that produces this rare bear.
To date, due to the efforts of conservationists and concerned citizens, two-thirds of this area, the last large area of intact temperate rain forest on the planet, is being protected. The final critical third, however, has been opened for development. Despite the remarkable progress that has been made to date, without protecting this final portion of this critical ecosystem, we will run an ecological deficit in the last place the spirit bear can call home.
The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition
The Spirit Bear Youth Coalition is the largest youth-led environmental organization in the world with a network of more than 6 million people in over 70 countries, and was founded more than a decade ago by then-13 year old, Simon Jackson, named by Time Magazine a "Hero of the Planet." He was the inspiration for a made-for-TV movie, Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story. Today, at 25, Jackson is the chairman of the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition and remains passionately determined to protect this sacred ecosystem that the spirit bear call home.
"I believe our biggest challenge," Jackson shares, "is to illustrate that the greatest sin is not trying and that by trying, together—as one voice—our dreams are possible and our missions are most certainly winnable. After all, we are the voices for the sick, the poor, the children, the dreamers... and the bears. It is our most important endeavor and our greatest tool for a better tomorrow." More about Jackson's story can be read here.
In 2009, the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition reunited the team responsible for the movie The Lion King to help produce The Spirit Bear, a major CGI Hollywood animated movie that, when released to theaters, will see a portion of every ticket sold go directly back toward helping save its namesake by protecting the final, unprotected third of the bear's habitat. The movie is still in production.
Canada’s federal government has just approved the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline, which threatens to destroy the coastal rainforest home of the spirit bear and First Nations communities that have thrived there for thousands of years.
If you would like to help protect the spirit bear and The Great Bear Rainforest, you can go to www.savethespiritbear.org and sign the petition to British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, which implores her to reject the Northern Gateway pipeline and save the spectacular Spirit Bear Coast. You can also make donations to both the National Resources Defense Council, who, along with the first nation tribes and citizens of B.C., is working diligently to prevent Enbridge's Northern Gates tar sands pipeline project from making headway. And the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition also takes donations here.
Here are two short video clips about this very special and unique pristine wilderness. The first imparts basic information about the spirit bear. The second, a stunning BBC clip, showcases the awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Bear Rainforest and illustrates how the bears, the Pacific salmon, and the rainforest are mutually dependent on one another for their existence.
How Salmon Help Keep a Huge Rainforest Thriving
The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest temperate rainforest in the world and one of the purest places on earth. This huge and pristine wilderness depends on an unlikely source for its long-term survival – the salmon which spawn in its rivers and creeks, and the bears who bring the salmon into the forest. The spirit bear plays a critical part, as because of its color, the white bear blends with the colors of the river, and the salmon are less able to detect their presence just above the surface of the water.
* (Best viewed at full screen — 3:55 min.)