(April 2020) – The global forecasts are frightening, yet Jamie Vickerman’s response is inspiring. The Port Stanley resident’s “Project Nanuk” aspires to generate greater awareness of global warming and encourages Canadians to act now to address climate change.

Against a dramatic backdrop of polar bear imagery produced by the likes of London photographer Dave Sandford and Dorchester artist Jade Williamson, Vickerman outlined a series of climate change fundraising initiatives at a recent Project Nanuk launch at Two Forks restaurant, 295 Bridge Street.

Vickerman’s campaign supports Polar Bears International (PBI), focusing concerns about melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels and increasing biodiversity loss. The campaign includes Toonies-4-Tomorrow coin boxes soliciting donations through local businesses. It also involves the sale of campaign merchandize, as well as posters and matted prints of Williamson’s and Sanford’s artwork. Seventy-five per cent of funds raised will go to PBI, and 25 per cent will be committed to environmental causes in Elgin County.

“I’ve always been fascinated by polar bears,” said Vickerman, president and founder of Polar Marketing. A St. Thomas native, Vickerman recently settled in Port Stanley and recently served as marketing manager for the Port Stanley Sailors of the Provincial Junior Hockey League (PJHL).

“I’m not an activist by any means, but I am about the future,” added Vickerman. “All I want to get out of Project Nanuk is a little awareness. Global warming is real. This is about small communities. It’s up to us. It has to start here.”

Delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Toonies-4-Tomorrow will launch soon in Elgin County. The coin boxes will be available at five locations. In St. Thomas, Staples, Home Hardware and Legends Tavern are participating. In Port, Modern Maple and Village Square Coffee House will take part. Other coin box locations are expected to come on stream as the campaign gains momentum. Ultimately, Toonies-4-Tomorrow hopes to expand in another 40 communities.

Polar Nation also hopes to launch a “20-for-20” national campaign, selling 20 pieces of merchandise for $20 each. The product line includes: caps, hoodies, t-shirts, pants, scarves, throws, pillow cases, headbands, flip flops, water bottles, travel mugs, mousepads, tumblers, mixing glasses, beer mugs, stemless wine glasses, cutting boards and craft beer. To order, contact Vickerman at (647) 919-1957 or jvpolarmarketing@gmail.com .

“Jamie contacted me about creating artwork for the project, which was ironic because my practice as an artist has been informed by bringing awareness to endangered species,” said Williamson. “Many species are becoming endangered because of their habitats being destroyed, similarly, to how the polar bears are being affected by climate change and consequently, melting sea ice.

“I am very grateful to be a part of Project Nanuk and I plan to continue to produce more work that will further support the campaign and raise funds to help save the sea ice,” she added. “Ultimately, it feels great to be creating art for such a great cause and for something I feel so strongly about.”

PBI Chief Scientist Steven Amstrup, author or coauthor of over 150 peer-reviewed articles on large mammals, reports that 97 per cent of climate scientists have reached a consensus that climate change is real and is fueled by humans.

PBI research, education and action programs address issues endangering polar bears. 
It has found that polar bears’ livelihood is intrinsically tied to its habitat atop the frozen ocean. They rely on seas ice to travel, hunt, breed and sometimes build dens. In fact, sea ice supports the entire Arctic food chain.

However research shows it is melting at a rate of 12.8 per cent a decade. Much of the decay has occurred in the last 13 years, according to PBI. Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization reports that Antarctica’s ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea levels by nearly 200 feet. Warm ocean waters are melting the gigantic Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. It alone has the potential to raise global sea levels more than 10 feet, according to the WMO.

“I’m not a researcher or activist, I just love nature,” Sandford said at the Project Nanuk launch. “My imagery shows beautiful things that are worth fighting for. The next generation will carry things on.”

As a sports photographer for some 21 years, Sandford captured pictures of athletes in the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the Olympics. In recent years, his early affinity for nature photography attracted him to Lake Erie where he photographed the wave action generated by “the gales of November.” His keen eye and camera equipment have travelled the world, catching dramatic scenes including the breaking surf on the southeast coast of Australia, great white sharks in the Southern Ocean, Canada’s north and Greenland. His study of polar bears produced some striking images. All are on display at www.davesandfordphotos.com

“A project like this shows how you can make a change and have an impact,” said Sanford. “I encourage all of you to keep this project alive and to tell others. Every little bit matters. Everything is not all about doom and gloom. I’ve always been a glass-half-full person … encouraging them through positive imagery. If it gets kids thinking about this … through beautiful imagery and projects like this … they grow up and want to take all these positive steps forward.”

PBI programs include: Tundra Connections webcasts, free live webcasts provided by polar bear and climate scientists, geared towards students, families and professionals; polar bear cams with Explore.org; and Climate Alliance training. Also, in a partnership with Google, polar bear habitats in Churchill were added to Google. PBI also works with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to create education programs about polar bear conservation.