Thousands hit the streets in mass bike ride to save the Arctic

Three Polar bears approach the USS Honolulu, 2...
Three Polar bears approach the USS Honolulu, 280 miles from the North Pole. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Toronto – Hundreds of people in polar bear suits and other Arctic-themed costumes cycled together through seven Canadian cities last Sunday, as part of a global day of action to protect the fragile Arctic region from oil drilling and the effects of climate change.

The family-friendly activity saw people from all walks of life get on their bikes and hit the road in 36 different countries and 106 cities in 6 continents across the globe.

While Toronto Arctic supporters pedaled through the city, a giant polar bear puppet named Aurora, the biggest polar bear ever, led a parade to Shell’s global HQ in London hauled by 30 volunteers and operated by 15 puppeteers.

The double-decker bus sized bear, weighing around three tonnes, will carry the names of almost four million people who have already signed up to protect the Arctic.

“We’re using the clean and peaceful energy of our bike pedals to protest devastating plans to drill for oil in the melting Arctic,” said Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner Farrah Khan. “With a unified voice, from all corners of the world, we’re telling oil companies and the governments that support them that the Arctic is off limits for oil exploitation.”

The Ice Ride initiative is part of Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign, which has seen almost 4 million people backing calls to protect the Arctic in just one year and more than 100,000 people sending letters and making phone calls to Prime Minister Harper to tell him “No Arctic drilling.”

The Arctic is under threat from climate change, from oil giants planning to take advantage of melting ice to drill high in the region, and from other destructive industries.

The event is timed to coincide with the announcement of the Arctic sea ice minimum, the moment in late summer when the ice sheet shrinks to its smallest size. Last year, the extent of the Arctic sea ice hit a record-breaking low, fueling global concern that climate change is destroying the Arctic region faster than previously thought. The 2012 sea ice extent value was a record at 48.5 % below the long term average recorded between 1979 and 2000. Data shows that the rate of melting has increased significantly in recent years.

“The Arctic is not just a place of breathtaking beauty, home to millions of people and unique creatures like polar bears; it also plays a crucial role in regulating the planet’s climate,” said Khan. “If we allow oil companies to destroy this region, we will all pay the price as our planet keeps warming, sea levels rise, and the weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable.”

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