December 2008 Issue
The plan seemed foolproof: Maribeth Flowers would stand in front of the taxidermic polar bear at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and talk about why she should be awarded the once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Arctic sponsored by Polar Bears International. The conservation group, dedicated to educating the public about the creamy-white mammals, was offering high-school students a weeklong sojourn to the Arctic to study the bears in their natural habitat.
“After two-and-a-half hours of outtakes at the museum and a dead camera battery,” the 17-year-old Brecksville resident laughs, “I went home defeated and ended up making my film in front of my kitchen cupboard with a stuffed polar bear.”
Her persistence paid off. Flowers was chosen to participate in the trip based on the leadership skills she’s exhibited with Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s teen volunteer group, Zoo Crew, and the passion she has for the planet.
In October, Flowers spent a week at Polar Bear International’s Leadership Camp in the Canadian town of Churchill, located in northern Manitoba on the shores of Hudson Bay. On the second day of the trip, Flowers’ group, comprised of 33 students from as far away as Australia and Denmark, spotted a mother and two cubs. “The cubs were like pin balls,” Flowers remembers. “They were darting under and around the buggies we traveled in, jumping up on the tires.”
The campers studied the science behind global warming. They were shown firsthand the devastating effects of climate change and pollution: dens that had collapsed from rising temperatures and a bear dining on a discarded plastic bag.
The trip was, says Flowers, an eye-opening experience. She plans to use her newfound knowledge to spread the word to classmates about conservation.
“In order to solve any problem, you need to bring people together,” she explains. “Otherwise you’re not going to be able to solve anything.”