When a car company helps fight climate change

There aren’t many times that a car commercial makes you reach for the tissue box. Most feature professional drivers on closed courses, speeding through turns at speeds that look both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.

But recently I saw an ad for the new, all electric Nissan Leaf. The ad is below, and it may cause spontaneous “what? No, I just have something in my eye” outbreaks. Consider yourself warned.

It’s a touching ad, no doubt about it. Polar bears have been the go-to animal to represent the face of climate change for years, and it is refreshing to see a car company (whose products have been adding greenhouse gases to the air for decades) acknowledge that climate change is having real effects, at least on polar bears.

The melting Arctic ice is major concern for the long-term prospects for polar bears. The idea of using the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – one of the best places for polar bears and cubs to make their dens –– as a place to drill for more oil is also an alarming idea. And unlike the commercial, moving to the suburbs isn’t an option for the bears, seals, walruses, and other wildlife that the Arctic Refuge, and the entire coast of the Arctic Ocean, supports.

It is also not an option for the native people of Alaska, such as the Gwich’in and Inupiat communities. Their ancestral homes, which have been occupied by their predecessors for millennia, are threatened by melting permafrost. The melting sea ice is also sending the seals, one of the communities’ main foods, farther and farther away. Capping greenhouse gas emissions and slowing down climate change is vital to protecting their way of life. And guaranteeing the strongest possible protection – a full Wilderness designation – for the entire Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will also help protect the habitat of these regal bears, and all of the wildlife in the Arctic.

Maybe the eco-friendly car ad is a marketing gimmick – they did leave out the fact that much of the energy for the car will come from coal burning plants, which is as bad if not worse than using gasoline – but I hope that the sentiment remains.

Photo: Polar Bear - photo courtesy of US Geological Survey