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Steven Amstrup says it's not too late to save polar bears – and ourselves

'We know the answer to what it takes to save' polar bears, says environmental prize winner Steven Amstrup, who has gone to the Arctic to study the bears for 30 years.

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Then there are logistical issues: "Two weeks ago, we had lost as much sea ice as 35 times the size of Indiana. How much styrofoam can we make?" Amstrup asks.

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However, he is hopeful that the world will react in time to save the polar bears.

"The problems that are facing polar bears are human-caused problems, and there are human-caused solutions," says Amstrup, who says he gave up his focus on research to share his 30 years' worth of study with the public. "We know the answer to what it takes to save them."

To change course will require people to change the way they live to reduce usage of carbon-based fuels, he says, citing things such as having well-insulated homes, energy-efficient furnaces and vehicles, and supporting businesses that engage in sustainable practices.

The biggest step, he says, is to find policymakers at all levels of government willing to entertain changes to people's throwaway lifestyle. "The critical thing is that polar bear conservation can't occur in the Arctic," he says.

Amstrup and his wife are building an energy-efficient home in northeast Washington, where they will grow their own fruits and vegetables. He also plans to hunt white-tailed deer and turkeys for food. Some of his prize money will go toward solar panels for their home and to replace their aging pickup trucks with fuel-efficient vehicles.

"Global warming is really the ultimate nonsustainable activity," Amstrup says. "Even if you don't care about polar bears, if you care about your own future, I think it's important to do what you can [to halt climate change]."

Helping wildlife

UniversalGiving (www.universalgiving.org) helps people give to and volunteer for top-performing charitable organizations worldwide. Projects are vetted by UniversalGiving; 100 percent of each donation goes directly to the listed cause.

Below are three opportunities to help wildlife, selected by UniversalGiving:

• The sea turtle program at Osa Conservation works to guarantee the survival of turtles nesting on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Project: Support the sea turtle conservation program.

The GVN Foundation offers opportunities to work with wild animals in captivity through a partner organization in Thailand. Project: Volunteer in Thailand.

Defense of Animals-Africa provides sanctuary for chimpanzees orphaned by the illegal bushmeat trade in Cameroon. Project: Sponsor an orphaned chimpanzee.

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