Some people jump into icy cold water for no good reason.
By contrast, on January 22, 2011, 200 men and women, from 7 to 74 years of age, with an air temperature of 17 degrees, took a frigid polar bear plunge into the Potomac at Maryland’s National Harbor, downstream from the U.S. Congress, demanding that our political leaders save real polar bears from extinction – as well as their human kissin’ cousins.
The demand is that Congress adopt policies to decrease carbon emissions from 388 parts per million of carbon dioxide to 350 parts, a safe level (see http://www.350.org/ )
My wife Holly planned to swim while I held hot drinks, foot warmers, towels, a thick terry cloth robe, my camera and yellow sheets for notes. You can see why I couldn’t make the plunge myself.
Some disbelievers might wonder if cold weather doesn’t contradict the science of global warming. But extreme weather conditions are averaged with other climate phenomenon. They don’t change the fact that the average temperature worldwide has gone up 1.4 degrees since 1880, and that we had our hottest temperatures in 400 years in the last several decades. The average temperature in Alaska, Western Canada and Eastern Russia have increased almost twice as fast as the global average. We’ve seen Antarctica melting. Islands and shore lines are receding. Arctic ice is disappearing rapidly, and an ice free summer there is now foreseeable. Polar bears are at risk, as they lose their sea ice habitat, the ice platforms they hunt from and that protect them from drowning. They are losing more young, starving, and every fifth bear is dying.
Hundreds milled in clusters with polar bear caps and hot coffee in hand, the last folk song finished, the wind blowing, ice rimming the Potomac, as Mike Tidwell, the founder of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (www.chesapeakeclimate.org), reassured the polar bear plungers in waiting that some swimmer had been doing this for years, proving you “can survive the plunge,” and remind congress that “the science isn’t lying.”
Last year, the National Research Council released, “Advancing the Science of Climate Change,” confirming once again that global warming is caused by what we humans do.
Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards said she was “warming up” to the plunge and invited citizens to “lean on us” in Congress to get something done; she was backed up by San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman.
As the polar plungers dropped off their clothes in nearby tents and emerged unprotected in swimsuits in the winds along the icy banks, a cheer went up and they raced as one splashing into the icy waters.
Among those in trunks was Franciscan Father Jacek Orzeshowski who told us that he made the plunge because combating global warming was a “moral and spiritual challenge” and “faith communities are embracing this movement,” so we can “defend the powerless,” avoid extinction, and save the “awesome diversity of life;” he prayed that all who plunged may enjoy the “fire of grace in our bellies.” May it be the same for those who fight global warming everywhere!