It’s a funny thing about global warming: Out of all the terrifying aspects of the science of climate change, it’s often the small stories — the reports about the way planetary warming is affecting specific species — that seem most frightening.
Bears have stopped hibernating in the mountains of northern Spain, scientists revealed yesterday, in what may be one of the strongest signals yet of how much climate change is affecting the natural world.
In a December in which bumblebees, butterflies and even swallows have been on the wing in Britain, European brown bears have been lumbering through the forests of Spain’s Cantabrian mountains, when normally they would already be in their long, annual sleep.
Bears are supposed to slumber throughout the winter, slowing their body rhythms to a minimum and drawing on stored resources, because frozen weather makes food too scarce to find. The barely breathing creatures can lose up to 40 per cent of their body weight before warmer springtime weather rouses them back to life.
But many of the 130 bears in Spain’s northern cordillera - which have a slightly different genetic identity from bear populations elsewhere in the world - have remained active throughout recent winters, naturalists from Spain’s Brown Bear Foundation (La Fundación Oso Pardo - FOP) said yesterday.
Something is going fundamentally wrong with this planet, something we’ve done to it ourselves. And so far, at least, there’s little evidence that we have the will to do anything about it.
And yeah, I’d call that scary, damn scary.