By Nina Wu
He's tall, white, furry – and endangered.
Frostpaw the polar bear has also been in Hawaii for the past week, but he's not on vacation.
He's been tailing President Barack Obama around during his 20-day family vacation here, and is set to go home tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 3). The polar bear mascot of the Center for Biological Diversity, is urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take action on climate change.
On New Year's Eve, Frostpaw and a handful of local activists from Idle No More Hawaii stood on the street corner outside of Obama's vacation home in Kailua to call attention to their cause shortly after the president made a trip back from Island Snow to get shave ice.
"Here in Hawaii, the beaches will go under water if we don't do anything about climate change, including the one where Obama is staying," said David Mulinix of Idle No More Hawaii, referring to sea level rise. "Keystone, if we don't do something about it, will affect us locally. Once our beaches are gone, tourism's gone and we'll have nothing."
Keystone XL is a proposed, 1,700-mile pipeline system which would transport synthetic crude oil from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists and Frostpaw oppose it, calling it an "environmental disaster" that would destroy acres of boreal forest in Alberta, pollute the water from the Ahabasca River and create greenhouse gas emissions, plus wreak potential disaster if there were a pipeline spill.
Keystone claims the project is safe, and that it will provide jobs for Americans and long-term energy independence. Visit www.nokeystone.org to read more about why the center opposes Keystone.
"The polar bear is the first animal listed as endangered specifically because of climate change," said Frostpaw, who wore an Aloha shirt for his Hawaii stint.
Scientists say two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050 if climate change is left unchecked, according to the center, which also cites climate scientist James Hansen saying the Keystone XL Pipeline would be "game over" for the climate crisis.
Has there been any response from the vacationing president? Not really, other than a shout out of "Hey, polar bear!" while playing golf at Mid Pacific Country Club. Still, the president, or his secret service agents, have been aware that he's here.
Before coming to Hawaii, Frostpaw held vigil outside of the White House during Thanksgiving and has followed the president on trips to Martha's Vineyard, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
While Honolulu has been a bit warm for Frostpaw, he enjoyed some shave ice to cool off, went to the beach and mingled with folks in Waikiki, encouraging them to save the climate in 2014 as one of their New Year's resolutions.