National Geographic admits: Polar bear video went ‘too far’



In December of 2017, National Geographic unveiled a moving video of a starving polar bear, and wrote: “This is what climate change looks like.” The background music was mournful and the dying bear was pitiful. Think of the extended death scene in Puccini’s opera, Madama Butterfly.

It stirred controversy. Some said the film crew should have aided the bear. Others decried modern humanity for condemning such a noble creature to this terrible fate. Other said that it was fake news, and that there was no way to know if this bear was a victim of climate change or just plain old.

In August of 2018, the magazine empire has admitted it went too far.

“While science has established that there is a strong connection between melting sea ice and polar bears dying off, there is no way to know for certain why this bear was on the verge of death,” the magazine wrote, and it updated the captioning on the video.

“Perhaps we made a mistake in not telling the full story—that we were looking for a picture that foretold the future and that we didn’t know what had happened to this particular polar bear,” wrote Cristina Mittermeier, a contributing photographer, speaker, and explorer for National Geographic.

Mittermeier is also an environmental advocate as the “co-founder, executive director, and vision lead” of SeaLegacy, a nonprofit organization working to protect the oceans, which contributed to the production.