There’s a joke I never quite understood as a child but now in adulthood, it’s so painfully true that it’s funny. Here it is:
A baby polar bear turns to its mother and asks “mommy, am I a real polar bear?”. The mother polar bear looks down and replies “of course you are my darling”. The pair continue on through the snow and the baby polar bear repeats the same question. “Are you sure I’m a real polar bear?”. The mother polar bear is perplexed but answers again. “Yes, I’m sure”. Some time later the baby polar asks a third time. “Really? Are you sure I’m a polar bear?”. The mother stops to face him. “Yes, I’m certain. Why do you keep asking? Why don’t you think you’re a real polar bear?”. The baby polar bear cries back at its mother.
“Because I’m so cold!!!”
I’ve been living in Hokkaido, a stone’s throw away from Siberia, and one of the places in the world where the apocalypse comes in early every November before taking a brief hiatus after April. I am fine of course, but there is a native population here that suffers beyond comprehension in the cruelty of the season. I am of course referring to Hokkaido’s native baby polar bear population. This is an appeal to you, generous donators around the world, to sponsor a baby polar bear today and help him survive the winter. On donation, you will receive a weekly pack from your polar bear. including photos and letters to let you know how they’re doing. But there is one in particular that desperately needs your help and I will introduce him to you. His name is Polaroncho, a bear with a distant latin heritage. He’s a sweet adorable baby polar bear, with a love of lemonade and a tendency to make obscure film references. He needs your help today.
Polaroncho has a simple lifestyle, commuting to and from school where he learns to catch fish from holes in the ice and how to ferociously maul any and all warm blooded mammals that cross his path. He’s so terribly cute. But getting to school is very hard for polar bears and especially for Polaroncho. Temperatures drop so low that his poor coat just isn’t thick enough to keep him warm. Every living thing in Hokkaido feels the cold (except for Cece. Somehow). He needs layers. As his carer, I make sure he’s wearing no less than 6 at all times; undershirt, vest, t-shirt, jumper, inner jacket and finally coat. Along with his natural fur, this is almost enough to prevent any risk of passing away from hyperthermia or from being frozen solid. But they’re nothing more than ordinary clothes; they weren’t designed to retain heat in extreme temperatures. To compensate, I have to dress him in more and more layers until he looks like he’s hiding a fake bulky sumo costume underneath his coat. Of course I don’t think he looks ridiculous, but Polaroncho does and to make him feel more comfortable in his own layers, we need to help him (please bear in mind, all his clothes are indeed designed for people. I simply recut them to suit polar bear specifications).
But keeping warm isn’t the only issue. In Sapporo, there’s not only heating in every building but also in the entire underground walkway that stretches across the city centre. In every case it’s blasted to full, radiating rooms in dire warmth until you won’t feel comfortable until you’re in beach gear. Poor Polaroncho can’t handle it if he’s wearing 6 layers, which he always is. You can remove a coat, but an entire wardrobe? And Polaroncho doesn’t even have arms to carry his clothes over while he’s indoors (besides, even if he stood on his hind legs, his paws lack posable thumbs). Occasionally he’s been forced to try as best he can and inevitably he’s spent more than a few occasions leaving a trail of fallen clothes in his wake as he desperately tried to walk burdened in garments. When he leaves them on, he faints from heat stroke (fortunately on these occasions, he’s completely safe from concussion, bruising or broken bones thanks to his shock absorbent mass of layered clothing. He’s the only polar bear who doesn’t need a seatbelt in a car crash. He is liable to rolling however). I couldn’t imagine having such a difficult time myself.
But what about the morning? Everyone has trouble getting up to some degree anyway, battling away sleep to find the strength to get up. But in Hokkaido, in such low temperatures how could anyone, let alone a poor baby polar bear, manage to get out of bed in just their pyjamas? You’re imprisoned under the covers by the cold. You could be wide awake but without a robe, a coat or a convenient sheep to hug (and munch on later if you get peckish), how could you get out of bed without breaking down into a ball of tremors and curses. I’ve never done that before but I’m sure Polaroncho has, in his mild barely protective fur coat. Polar bears really only have two options to deal with this. The most effective method is to set the heating to switch on in the mornings, warming the room just enough to be able to successfully get up without extreme pain. But heating bills are expensive and Polaroncho can hardly afford them after so many trips to Book-off. Which leaves him with the second option; wearing outdoor gear in bed. In order to retain heat beyond the protection their duvet, baby polar bears need to bring their winter coats into bed with them. In the winter mornings, they can dress into their coats under the blankets where it’s still warm so that they might emerge partially protected from the icy air. But sleeping next to, or even in a coat is very uncomfortable. So I’ve heard.
Heating bills as I mentioned are expensive, and Polaroncho has already been forced to compensate for that. Not using the heater at all is not an option. Even I, with all my money saving skill, would not dare live in -10 degree colds an entire winter. Not permanently at least. So you have to use it but sparingly if you have limited funding. How could polar bears handle such an environment? They live by closing every door, trapping the heat to a single room and reducing the cost of warming yup an entire apartment or house. This leaves with only one issue; you have to live in a single room. Polaroncho made that room his bedroom so that he could sleep soundly, curled up into a white adorable ball during the night. But every trip to the bathroom, every shower and every evening when he goes to the kitchen to cook dinner is no different than a trek through the arctic. It’s gotten so bad, Polaroncho doesn’t even turn on his fridge any more; he simply leaves his food and milk in a spare room to keep fresh.
Then of course there’s the snow. Six feet high, walls of snow that polar bears need to dig through in order to leave their apartments. Have you seen baby polar bear paws? They’re too small for such a task! They’re ok for ripping raw flesh off a fresh victim’s bones but not for snow. They might get a chill. They need shovels and spiked shoes to get by under these conditions. Polaroncho has already several times now, slipped on the ice and fallen into the road (with oncoming traffic. It can really ruin your day when that happens). Polaroncho has as a result mastered the art of walking like a penguin, shuffling about with his paws slight parted at an angle (it not only helps with the ice but it’s also great for sneaking up on dinner).
But by far the worst thing is something you wouldn’t expect. Something nobody can warn you about. Something that now poor Polaroncho suffers. Colour blindness. With endless months of grey skies and white streets, it leaves the world in nothing less than shades of grey (and not the sexy kind. Unless blandness is your thing. Besides, you can’t mix polar bears and sexiness; that’s just a panda thing). Snow lands on everything and blankets all colour outside until the world is white washed. Polaroncho and I miss colour. Sure, we go to the arcades and stare at the flashing multicoloured lights (it’s mesmerising) but it’s just not the same as seeing the gentle green of grass or the cheerful red of the post office, or the soft yellow of vomit sprayed across the street in the entertainment district.
Throughout it all we’re mostly trapped indoors, barred from the wasteland outside and slowly freezing within our rooms. So please, call in and register with our charity ‘Save the baby polar bears’. With just £2 a month, you could save a baby polar bear like Polaroncho. Give him warmer clothes and blankets. Help pay his heating bills. Support funding for shovels and colouring books. With your help, Poloaroncho doesn’t have to be cold, alone and desperately trying to remember what green looks like. With your support, Polaroncho will be able to lead a long and healthy life. To regain the happiness the winter has taken away and one day grow up into the lethal carnivore that we have all come to love and admire. We can do this, not for your sake nor mine (why would any of you suggest this was for me!? Ridiculous), but for Polaroncho and every cute baby polar bear out there who’d much rather be living anywhere remotely warmer. Thank you.