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Climate Crisis Weekly: Bears are waking up — because it’s too warm, too soon

  • Bears across the globe are waking up from hibernation early due to warm temperatures.
  • Greta Thunberg listens to the coronavirus science — and moves climate-crisis strikes online.
  • Phones, tablets, and laptops will be included in Europe’s “Right to Repair” law to cut waste.
  • And more…

Europe just had its warmest winter ever, the US has just had its hottest December and January on record — and as a result, the bears are waking up from hibernation early because they think it’s spring.

According to the Guardian, there have been bear sightings in February and early March in Russia, Finland, Canada, and the US. In Banff in Canada, a grizzly bear was spotted on March 3, and in Yellowstone Park in the US, another grizzly was seen on March 7.

According to Yellowstone’s website, male grizzlies normally come out of hibernation in mid- to late March, and females with cubs emerge later, in April to early May.

So why is this early emergence of the bears a problem? Because if they wake up too early, there isn’t enough of their omnivorous diet for them to eat. And if they don’t have enough to eat, they go in search of food, where a run-in with humans is a possibility as they rifle through garbage and gardens.

Chris Servheen, a former grizzly bear recovery coordinator at the US Fish and Wildlife Service, said:

If we see this as a continuing thing with climate change we will probably see more conflicts because there’s not much food for the bears. If bears come out early they will potentially seek food around people, such as in garbage, bird feeders and crops. The potential for conflict is certainly higher as they come out earlier.

Young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg is known, among many other things, for her #fridaysforfuture climate-crisis marches that attract thousands of people, week in, week out, all over the world. On Wednesday, Thunberg posted on Twitter that climate activists should stage digital strikes instead of in-person demonstrations to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Thunberg suggested that activists post photos of themselves striking on Fridays with a sign featuring the hashtags #DigitalStrike and #ClimateStrikeOnline.

Thunberg posted:

We young people are the least affected by this virus but it’s essential that we act in solidarity with the most vulnerable and that we act in the best interest of our common society.

So the kids got to work yesterday protesting on Twitter. Here’s a tweet from Kenya:

And another one from London:

And a third and final tweet from Denmark:

The European commission will extend the “Right to Repair” law to cover phones, tablets, and laptops so that these tech goods consist of changeable and repairable parts. The current law sets energy-efficiency standards for computers, TVs, dishwashers, and washing machines.

“The commission is also considering an EU-wide scheme that would enable consumers to sell or return old phones, tablets, and chargers. It also wants to introduce a common charger,” reports the Guardian.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European commissioner for the environment, said:

The linear growth model of ‘take, make, use, discard’ has reached its limits. With the growth of the world population and consumption, this linear model pushes us closer and closer to a resource crisis. The only way ahead is decoupling economic growth from extraction of primary resources and their environmental impacts.

Electrek’s Take: I don’t want to change out my smartphone every two years. I want to replace the battery and keep using it. Not only is it expensive, it also creates landfill waste. (And yes, I know smartphone companies want to sell new stuff.) This should be standard practice globally. And I’m all for the common charger — who doesn’t have various chargers all over the house?

Electrek reported on February 15 that penguins are suffering at the hand of climate change:

Scientists on an 11-day Greenpeace expedition to Antarctica’s Elephant Island to count chinstrap penguin nests found that thousands of penguins are missing. One chinstrap penguin colony has decreased by 77% in nearly 50 years.

This video pretty much sums up what’s going on with the penguins, and “Valeska,” you’re right — I experienced about 12 emotions in 27 seconds watching this.

Last Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced guidelines for containing the coronavirus. They included working from home, avoiding the subway during rush hour, and walking or biking to work if possible.

On Wednesday, New York’s Department of Transportation said that it’s seen a 50% increase in cycling traffic on the bridges that connect Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens compared to March 2019. Also, New York City’s bike-share program, Citi Bike, announced yesterday that rides are up 67% compared to this time last year.

Transportation Alternatives is pushing for the mayor to encourage more people to walk and cycle by putting conditions in place that make it even safer for cyclists, such as pop-up bike lanes and a subsidized Citi Bike program.

It’s warm — global warming, ahem — so people are outdoors. But it’s good to see people heeding De Blasio’s guidelines and pedaling around the city the green way to keep themselves safe and out of big crowds.

Photo: Johny vino/Unsplash

Grist’s “Ask Umbra” column on Thursday saw a reader ask about using single-use wipes, gloves, etc to try to stave off the coronavirus:

Dear Umbra,

Should I feel guilty about buying so much plastic-wrapped and single-use stuff for this quarantine nightmare? — Stuck Here Using Throwaways Instead of… Not

You can read Umbra’s full answer by clicking the link above, but the spoiler is is no, the guilt isn’t necessary. Umbra had a chat about it with Rolf Halden, professor of health engineering at Arizona State University:

While he’s enthused that people are critically thinking about how much plastic they consume, whatever’s being bought in the name of COVID-19 prevention ‘is a drop in the bucket compared to all that we needlessly consume,’ he said. ‘I think the answer is very clear: Don’t compromise health to save a little bit of plastic.’

So give yourself a break, and stay healthy. (She said, who just felt guilty about wiping down my computer and phone with a disposable wipe for electronics.)

Let’s be honest: We’re mostly all more than a little stressed out about COVID-19, and the unknown fallout to come from this pandemic. It’s a lot to take in. So I’ll leave you with some good news from the World Wildlife Fund in an article titled, “The Good News About Climate Change.” Click here to read the details, but here are the highlights on why we have reason to hope:

  • We’re learning to adapt to changes that have already happened.
  • The solutions we need for a carbon-zero future already exist.
  • The world is committed to fighting the climate crisis.
  • Businesses are on board to save our warming world.
  • People like you are in the streets, demanding action.

Stay safe, people, and to paraphrase Greta Thunberg, act in the best interest of society.

Photo: WWF

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

Photo: Thomas Lipke/Unsplash

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.