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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #50
April 23, 2008

Don't Just Grin and Bear It

Arctic Tale + Save a Polar Bear and The Planet

Spring thaws mean flowers and flip flops for most of our little darlings. Not so for the darlings of the Arctic, where melting ice means trouble for the next generation of animal life. In Arctic Tale, we meet Nanu, a baby polar bear, and Sela, a baby walrus, both born to inherit a kingdom of ice. A National Geographic film, narrated by Queen Latifah, our kids easily followed the story and ate up the close up antics of these polar babies. As the film progressed, we got a real life view of how global warming is creating havoc in these babies’ lives. As the ice melts earlier each season, food is scarce and the skills they have learned from their devoted moms no longer guarantee survival. Although Nanu and Sela, our two Arctic stars, do survive and go on to birth babies of their own, the film melted our hearts about the long term fate of their friends.

Polar bears are this year's poster children for global warming, and meeting Nanu in Arctic Tale gave our kids just the nudge they needed to think leading a greener life. We decided to "adopt" the polar bear as our Earth Day mascot, and view the problem through their warm, brown eyes. Here's how we did it. First, we looked at the footage of the Wilken's Shelf melting, which led us to do a little homework about current legislation in Congress. We signed an on-line petition against further leasing of Alaskan territory for oil exploration, and then revisited last year's Earth Day vows to reduce our family's carbon footprint. The hardest part (for all of us) is remembering to stay focused. Luckily the kids found a free screensaver from National Geographic and pasted pictures of polar bears near light switches to inspire themselves to follow through. There are no shortage of ideas; we hope you will join us in keeping our Arctic friends cold enough to wear their fur coats!

Film Title: Arctic Tale
Directed By: Sarah Robertson & Adam Ravetch
2007, Rated G, 86 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Film:

  • Why This Film is Worth It: Your whole family will be entertained while also receiving a compelling argument for doing everything possible to curb the warming of the Earth.
  • Red Flags: This film does not white wash the brutality of some real events. Our 11 year-old left the room when Nanu eats a ringed seal, its natural prey. There are plenty of sad moments, too: Nanu’s brother dies because he can’t hack the hunger, Sela gets separated from her mom at sea, Sela’s guardian, her aunt, dies protecting her, Nanu’s mother purposefully abandons her at 2 years old. These difficult scenes are not raised gratuitously, but rather, to show the real life effects of global warming.
  • Further Viewing: Click here to see what we had to say about Ice Age: The Meltdown, or An Inconvenient Truth.

Our Tips for Talking with you Kids about this Film:

  • Polar Bear Savvy:  The film claims that global warming is “turning rightful masters into refugees,”  and that by 2040, the Arctic could be ice free.  Ask your kids to imagine what that means for Nanu and Sela, and if what they can do to help.
  • Documentary Savvy: It took director Sarah Robertson and cinematographer Adam Ravetch over ten years to make this film -- each bear character is a composite of animals filmed over several years. Good thing they are married!


Earth Day 2008
Polar Bear News and What You Can Do

Age Recommendation: Everyone
Time Allotment: From now on!

Our Tips for Talking with your kids about this Adventure:
  • Family Greening Tips: Click here for what we had to say on previous Earth Days: Ice Age: The Meltdown, or An Inconvenient Truth.
  • Polar Politics -- News: Senator John Kerry recently introduced a bill to prevent oil excavation in the Polar Bear's Alaskan habitat on Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Click here to learn more about the facts -- and don't forget to show the kids the cute polar bear photos in the photo gallery on the left margin. Click here for National Geographic videos about endangered animals, including the polar bear, baby monkeys, turtles and coral reefs.
  • Polar Politics -- What You Can Do: Click here to sign a petition that supports legislation to prevent further leasing of lands in Alaska until the bears are guaranteed protection.
  • Polar Bears and Water -- News: Click here to see the collapse of the Wilken's Shelf in Antarctica. Clean water, as well as available water, is an increasingly important global health issue.
  • Water -- What You Can Do: One big change we've made over the past year is to reduce our reliance on individual plastic bottles, both because they proliferate in the landfills and because some plastic containers pollute the drinking water. Click here to purchase appropriate bottles for your kids to carry to school, and sporting events. We also contribute to global clean water initiatives...
  • Polar Bears Diet - News: A polar bear sits atop the food chain, and bear populations are starting to get sick from eating other animals that have eaten toxic water, snow and ice. Click here to learn more from the Norwegian Polar Institute's study of the affects of bio-magnification, that is the passing along of toxins along the food chain.
  • Fishy Choices -- What You Can Do: Polar bears love fish, and so do we. But, we're careful about buying sustainable fish to eat. Click here for the latest Seafood Watch information from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, including their cool, wallet-size downloadable guide.
  • Not Just the Ice Caps: Click here for NRDC's alarming report that Western states are heating up at a more rapid rate than anywhere else in the US, other than Alaska.
  • Story of Stuff: Click here to learn more about our consumption habits in this opinionated, but amusing video from

Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure around the USA:
  • Anwhere: google Earth Day and your city name
  • Boston: To fully enjoy and better understand the natural world of Massachusetts, take a trip to Drumlin Farm in Lincoln Open year round, except for Mondays, this working farm features New England’s most popular wildlife (think skunk, rabbit, owl, hawk, deer, fox), farm animals (think pig, cow, horse), a learning garden, hayrides, three miles of hiking trails and friendly farmers open to questions. Located on South Great Road in Lincoln. 781.259.9807
  • Houston: Take some time out this week to visit the Houston Zoo. Look for Texas’s own endangered species, including the East Texas Black Bear, Houston toad and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. You can also learn about amphibian conservation through the zoo's Amphibian Ark 2008 Year of the Frog campaign.
  • New York: Celebrate Earth Day this week with a trip to the Central Park Zoo where you can visit polar bears Gus and Ida. You may also check on the polar bears at the Bronx Zoo where you can watch them swim for their favorite fishicle treats!
  • San Francisco: San Francisco's largest urban oasis, the famous Golden Gate Park, and its surrounding recreational area, is home to a host of endangered and threatened species of animals. To combat the ennui that threatens so many plants, animals, fish, birds and butterflies, a high-profile group of nonprofit agencies, including Sierra Club, San Francisco Zoo and National Parks Conservation Association, launched the "2008 Golden Gate National Recreation Area Endangered Species Big Year" to compel people to seek out, and then help creatures that need it the most. You can visit the website to download a checklist of the 33 endangered or threatened species, and the 33 action items you can take to help these species recover. There is a calendar of events throughout the year to join special trips that observe certain species, like MIssion Blue Butterflies, Southern Sea Otters or Humpback Whales. Best of all? You can learn more about the natural world around you anytime you and your kids have the time, and the action items are simple and easy.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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