Tag Archives: Polar Bears International

Thanks, Jeffxs!

Last October, “06880” published the uplifting story of Brian Hershey.  The Staples junior won an international contest sponsored by Polar Bears International, aimed at educating teenagers about climate change.

Brian Hershey, proudly wearing his Polar Bears International fleece. Hong Kong this summer will be much warmer.

After writing an essay and undergoing interviews, Brian traveled to the Arctic Circle.  He and 17 other bright, committed students from around the globe met with scientists, studied polar bears, and tried to figure out how to stop our planet from falling apart.

Brian returned to Westport excited and inspired to do what he can to help change the world.

The post drew 98 comments.  This being “06880,” not all were positive.  Several readers hammered Brian for — among other things — his love of travel, and his belief that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between manmade gases and global warming.

A reader who nicknamed himself “Jeffxs” was particularly vocal.  He said that Brian was “pitching his ideas,” and — as an aside — decried the Board of Education’s elimination of science courses in favor of “mural painting.”

Brian responded to his critics with grace and poise.  He countered their blasts with reasoned arguments, facts, logic — and far more restraint than adults 2 and 3 times his age showed.

So it was with particular joy that I read an email the other day from Brian.  He wrote:

When that blog post was published on Facebook, a friend of my family’s from when we used to live in Hong Kong read it.  He is an executive at a PR firm based in East Asia whose specialty is “crisis management.”

Apparently he liked what he saw!  He sent me a friendly email saying he saw a great PR agent in me, and that he liked the way I “managed the crisis.”  He ended his email with, “I’d love to have you as an intern!  Your choice of Hong Kong, Syndney, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore,or Kuala Lumpur!”

When I read this I was shaking in my seat at the idea of being able to go back to that part of the world.  I have been dying to go back to Asia ever since I lived in Tokyo this past summer as an exchange student.  I couldn’t believe the offer was real.

It was confirmed today.  For the month of July I will live in an apartment in Hong Kong, and work as an intern for this guy at his office.

It’s the experience of a lifetime!  And none of it would have been possible without your blog post, and Jeffsx and others’ criticisms!  That’s fate!

Actually, it’s a great credit to Brian, and his maturity and wisdom.

As for Jeffxs:  Please send me your address (email or snail).  I’ll pass it along to Brian.

I’m sure he’d like to thank you himself, just as soon as he gets settled in Hong Kong.

Save The Polar Bears

A typical Staples absence note says, “He was at the doctor’s.”

Brian Hershey’s says, “He was at the Arctic Circle.”

If anything merits an excused absence, his does.

Brian Hershey, proudly wearing his Polar Bears International/Gault fleece.

Brian is a go-getter.  He’s president of the Geography Club for good reason:  Still a high school junior, he’s already visited 50 countries.

He plays alto sax in the jazz band and pit orchestra.

He spent last summer in Japan, as an exchange student.

He loves science.  So it was no surprise that last spring he entered an international contest run by Polar Bears International aimed at educating teenagers about climate change.

Nor was it surprise that — after writing an essay, and undergoing interviews — Brian was one of 18 winners.

Which is how, earlier this month, he traveled to Churchill, Manitoba — a small town on Hudson Bay — to meet with scientists, study polar bears, and figure out how to stop the world from falling apart.

Brian met incredible people.  Meeting other teenagers was as intriguing as interacting with climate change experts and park rangers.  Most of the teenagers won contests co-sponsored by zoos (Brian’s was the only one sponsored by an energy company — Gault).  Their perspectives broadened his own.

He spent time with Inuit trappers.  One woman had been hired at age 7 to guide white hunters.  At 9 she traveled 50 kilometers, spending 20 days trapping, then hauling furs back to Churchill.

By herself.

“I figured these trappers would just kill animals,” Brian says.  “But their lives depend on animals.  They really understand the importance of conservation.”

But his encounters with a few dozen polar bears — some as close as 2 feet away — were truly amazing.

Brian Hershey took this photo. The polar bears are having fun -- but there should be snow and ice on the ground.

A buggy brought the group to a research station in the middle of the tundra.

“We were at the mouth of the  Churchill River, where fresh and saltwater mix,” Brian explains.

“The bears hadn’t eaten in 4 months.  They were starving, waiting for the ice to form, so they could hunt and eat seals.

“The water wasn’t frozen — but it should have been.  Looking in the eyes of those awesome predators was an incredible experience.”

Brian returned to Westport — via prop plane to Winnipeg — motivated to find solutions to climate change.  He and his new friends had agreed to try to get major businesses or organizations wherever they lived — Australia, the UK, wherever — to reduce their carbon footprint by 5% in 1 year.

Brian immediately approached Staples principal John Dodig to discuss “realistic, applicable ideas.”

One was to start using thin, recyclable paper — like the type Brian saw in Japan — for the many handouts teachers distribute.

Another suggestion:  designate some junior parking spots (a coveted commodity) for students who recycle the most.

Brian Hershey, at the Arctic Circle.

Brian is determined to educate as many people as possible — of all ages — about the importance of environmental awareness.

“Climate change,” he notes, is a “misnomer.  Climate is dynamic — it’s always changing.  The question is whether people believe human beings are now contributing to the change.

“I think we are.  And I want to talk about it.”

His message — to his friends, teachers, and hopefully the nation — is both personal and universal.

“Why should people in the slums of India, or Brazilian favelas, care about polar bears?

“You have to look at the global picture — at weather, ocean salinity, fishing, trade, everything.

“I have friends all around the world.  And I’m going to use all my contacts, everyone I know and everything I learned, to try to spread awareness as much and as far as I can.”