The war over polar bears - who's telling the truth about the fate of a
Canadian icon? Also featured in this week's Maclean's: Kiss your assets
goodbye - we're on the brink of global economic collapse; and,
Harper's 12: who has the real power in Ottawa? For more on these and
other stories turn to www.macleans.ca.
TORONTO, Jan. 24 /CNW/ - Outside the Arctic, the general opinion on polar
bears, the noble animals that prowl the ice, is that they are going the way
of the dodo thanks to global warming. If the ice melts, the bears are in big,
big trouble. But, there's considerable argument over just how much of that is
true. At this point, bear populations are not in a precipitous decline: forty
years ago, before hunting was regulated by an international agreement in 1973,
polar bear populations were badly depleted - by some estimates, there were as
few as 5,000, yet today, worldwide, there are closer to 25,000. Bears may be
struggling as a result of global warming, but the long-term impact, not to
mention the number crunching, is still a matter of some speculation.
"The move to list the bear as threatened under the Endangered Species
Act, a process that began over a year ago, is a calculated move by
environmental groups to pressure the U.S. government to act on global
warming," reports Maclean's. If the bear is deemed "threatened" by the
Department of the Interior, then the U.S. must protect its habitat from
climate change as well as controversial oil and gas development in Alaska.
Until that decision is made, the U.S. has moved ahead with plans to lease oil
exploration rights in Alaska's polar bear country, riling environmentalists
who have public opinion firmly on their side. With all these competing
interests, the polar bear has become the unwitting pawn of an environmental
war that makes previous struggles. Caught in the middle are the Inuit, who not
only rely on the hunt for money, but who see one of the last great vestiges of
their culture under siege. The polar bear wars are pitting scientists against
scientists, environmentalists against governments, and Inuit against all of
them. Worse still, whether any of this will do much to improve the state of
the polar bear is anyone's guess.
On the brink of global collapse
When standing at the edge of an economic cliff, urging consumers not to
leap off, a reassuring tone and a good poker face are essential. Last Friday,
U.S. President George W. Bush gave it his best shot, announcing a
US$150-billion economic lifeline with all the calm assurance of a father
giving the kids an advance on their allowance. Sure enough, Bush's
reassurances only seemed to fuel the fire: U.S. stocks resumed their downward
spiral; Asia's markets immediately plunged; India's benchmark index began this
week with a record one-day decline; And, traders in Hong Kong, London, Tokyo
and elsewhere followed suit. On Monday morning, Toronto's main stock index
plunged 605 points, its biggest one-day drop since the immediate aftermath of
Around the world, stock markets have been in decline since early
October-with almost $180 billion in shareholder wealth wiped out in less than
four months, in Canada alone. "But all these declines are just symptoms of a
sickness in the U.S. economy," writes Maclean's deputy managing editor Steve
Maich, "and no amount of reassurance from the White House could change the
slew of ugly numbers keeping economists up at night."
In the PM's inner circle, there's no room for sentiment or tolerance for
failure. Maclean's looks at who's in, who's out and who has real power in
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