The Common Good

And the #1 Threat to America: BEARS!

Last week was a busy one, getting the blog switched over from Beliefnet to our own Web site. Sharp-eyed readers have noticed a few bugs, but since we're over the hump I thought a little Friday fun was in order. Fans of the Colbert Report know that Stephen has done a lot to raise awareness of the dangers of bears. His work remains unfinished.

Last week, the Metro station two blocks from the Sojourners office was shut down by police because of a bomb scare caused by a "suspicious" package. Turns out the suspicious package was in the shape of a life-sized stuffed polar bear next to a trash can. I don't know exactly how the situation was resolved -- I have images in my mind of a police bomb squad robot pre-emptively detonating the poor thing.

As reported on DCist, the polar bear turned out not to be a terrorist threat, but an activist collaboration between local street artist Mark Jenkins and Greenpeace to raise awareness about global warming. It seems the polar bear was "homeless" because of shrinking polar ice. From the Greenpeace site:

Jenkins, a Washington, D.C.-based artist who creates sculptures primarily from packing tape, has earned international recognition for his street art installations, many of which feature astoundingly realistic human figures. For this series, Greenpeace and Jenkins added polar bear heads and ragged clothing to human figures to convey a sense of displacement and homelessness. To date, four sculptures have been deployed throughout the D.C. area in locations chosen to reach a variety of audiences and address different aspects of the global warming crisis. One bear bore a sign reading "S.O.S.," while another had signs saying: "Victim of Oil Addiction" and "Global Warming Refugee. Help a brother out?"

"My intention with this project was to leverage my street installations to promote awareness about the issue of global warming and the plight of the polar bear," said Jenkins. "It was our shared goal that the public would develop empathy for the polar bear as they have for the homeless which we see as two connected issues."

So is it ironic (it's always hard to tell what's actual irony) that an art activism project to raise awareness about fossil fuels was suspected of being some kind of terrorist plot? Foreign oil is often blamed as the very thing funding terrorism halfway around the world. While at the same time, fossil fuel consumption is destroying the habitat of the animals -- halfway around the world in a different direction -- whose symbolic representations are suspected of terrorist plots on the streets of Washington, D.C.

I know -- it's both confusing and terrifying. But here's an idea: Let's have the polar bears and al Qaeda fight it out among themselves. And as long as there aren't any bomb scares at the Metro station, take public transportation to reduce fossil fuel consumption.

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners.

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