Inuit people and biologists debunk the heart-wrenching video of ‘starving’ polar bear


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The video taken and shared by SeaLegacy went viral as further evidence of anthropogenic (human-influenced) climate change. While anthropogenic climate change is undoubtedly real, this video, as some have pointed out, was taken out of context and actually has very little to do with climate change.

Sadly, some even used the video to blame the Inuit people indigenous to the area, because they are known to hunt polar bears. This isn’t the first time Inuit people have been falsely blamed for various (misunderstood) animal conservation issues.

One of the photographers for SeaLegacy, Cristina Mittermeier, said:  “Inuit people make a lot of money from trophy bear hunting,” she wrote, according to As It Happens. “Of course, it is in their best interest to say that polar bears are happy and healthy and that climate change is a joke, because otherwise their quota might be reduced.”

Madeleine Redfern said SeaLegacy’s comments were “racist and factually untrue”

However, mayor of Iqaluit Madeleine Redfern commented on the statement: “I wasn’t surprised. These organizations often have a playbook, certain ways of spinning this issue. When Inuit or northerners speak up and counter their misinformation, they go on the offensive. It was an offensive attack on our people and our culture and our way of life.”

Redfern also shared a fair bit of data on Twitter, proving that polar bear hunting doesn’t threaten the population of polar bears. In fact, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board sets a quota for bear harvests, which is only 25 per year, including bears killed in self defence.

Wildlife biologist Jeff Higdon also took to twitter to explain what the probable scenario with the polar bear was.

“Climate change has very little to do with it,” says Eric Ootoovak, a hunter and the vice-chair of the Mittimatalik Hunters and Trappers Organization in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, at the north end of Baffin Island. “You can really tell he’s sick. He’s not starving. If he was starving, he’d be able to move a bit more than that.”

“There’s too many bears in our area,” said Ootoovak, who has hunted all his life. Contrary to what Mittermeier thinks, there are actually too many polar bears now. “My grandmother used to tell me stories from when they lived in sod houses and they would never see polar bears. When there was finally a bear, people all over spoke about it. Today, it’s impossible to camp without having a bear watch.”

James Eetoolook says Nunavut’s wildlife management system is ‘one of the best in the world.’ (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

People like Mittermeier have a bizarre idea of indigenous cultures and what conservation is. They seem to care immensely — perhaps to an irrational extent — about polar bears and other wildlife, but have no concern for the indigenous people who have assumed responsibility of preserving their ecosystem so threatened by climate change for decades now.

As many have also pointed out, if SeaLegacy truly cared, why did they spend so much time filming this polar bear without trying to help it? Or even put it down if it was suffering so much. If anything, this move felt more like an attempt to ramp up emotion and garner attention (albeit for a good cause), especially because they were wrong in the first place.

SeaLegacy explained that they did not have the resources to deal with the bear, but this arguably highlights a core problem in photography of this kind. Capturing suffering without actually helping the ones who suffer places importance on the labour.

“We know climate change is happening,” Redfern said. “We are not climate deniers. In fact, we are feeling it more than anyone else.”

This is what happens when you don’t listen to indigenous people. Not only do Westerners ignore them, but they think their recent awareness about climate change makes them experts over people who have been tackling climate change for decades; people who have cared about the environment long before it became a fashionable (and globally threatening) issue.

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Xain Storey

Xain is the co-founder and editor of BroFeed. He spends most of his time researching bioculturalism, building epic fantasy worlds, and wondering why people still trust their governments.

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