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Q+A with Arctic Tale Filmmakers
Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson - Page 3

Text by Mary Anne Potts   Photograph courtesy National Geographic Films

Photo: Bear on ice

Filmmakers Adam Ravetch and Sarah Robertson were surprised to encounter polar bears swimming great distances, sometimes 100 miles (1,609 kilometers) from land, in search of food.

The Casualties of Climate Change

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Have you personally witnessed climate change? 
Sarah Robertson: Because we've had such long-term experience in the Arctic, we have been able to see it with our own eyes. The ice patterns are changing. We knew areas ten years ago that were totally covered in ice. Today, that ice is gone. Thin ice is scary because it's like a big elastic band. It was terrifying for us to be on. I'd imagine it's terrifying for the bears, too.   

Adam Ravetch: We used to see ice setting up from December to May. Now, over the last two years, it's only been setting up from April to May. Something used to be five- to six-feet [1.5- to 2-meters] thick is only several inches to a foot [up to 30 centimeters] thick today.

Which change in animal behaviors did you find kind of the most alarming? 
Sarah Robertson: Fifteen years ago, when we started in the Arctic, scientists said that walruses and polar bears didn't encounter one another. But we've been seeing more and more instances where they are. Walruses are driven to the rock islands because there is no ice. Then there are more and more polar bears that are driven to the rocks, as well, in search of food. We think the bears are learning how to eat walrus and are teaching each other how to eat walrus. 

Walruses can take down a polar bear, can't they? 
Adam Ravetch: I filmmed a sequence of a polar bear that got nailed in the leg and in the shoulder by a walrus tusk. I followed that bear for ten days. It was completely injured and probably didn't survive.

That was a great example of how the walrus herd fought back. I thought a big, male bear could just take on a walrus, no problem. But as time goes on, the bears are going to have trouble hunting a walrus. So they're going to be stuck on these islands together, with walruses fighting back bears that are just trying to eat. And who knows what will happen to them?

Do you feel very optimistic that by changing our human behaviors we will be able to make it easier for the animals of the Arctic? 
Sarah Robertson: It goes bigger than that. We got to change our behaviors to save ourselves. We're trying to show how these animals are making bold choices and taking the initiative to live differently in their environment. We also have to take initiative and change our behaviors so that we can survive our changing environment. I think that these animals will be in desperate straits. Some of them will be able to adapt, but the larger question is, Will we be able to adapt? What's going to happen to us? We're going to have to face some pretty large obstacles. 

Adam Ravetch: That's what's so exciting about this film, it's very rare that we have the opportunity to produce a piece of entertainment that informs people. We're at the beginning of this huge movement of our society changing.  

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