At night, the bears steal into town, making it dangerous to walk outside without a firearm or bear spray. They leave only reluctantly, chased off by the polar bear patrol with firecracker shells and spotlights.
On the surface, these bears might not seem like members of a species facing possible extinction.
Scientists have counted up to 80 at a time in or near Kaktovik; many look healthy and plump, especially in the early fall, when their presence overlaps with the Inupiat village’s whaling season.
But the bears that come here are climate refugees, on land because the sea ice they rely on for hunting seals is receding.
Still, with products double and triple the cost of a Big Mac combo meal, the young competitors don’t yet pose any real danger to conventional fast food. “The big issues are sourcing, labor, and price points,” Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University, told me. “These are issues for any chain restaurant, but places that depend on fresh, sustainable ingredients have extra challenges, including the perception that their foods are expensive.”
David Friedberg, a former Google programmer with a degree in astrophysics, hopes to overcome these challenges with a new vegetarian chain called Eatsa. “We’ve got to do two things: get healthy products down to a price point that McDonald’s and Taco Bell are winning on, and offer products tasty enough to disrupt the meat-focussed fast-food business,” he told me recently. “We think the way to do it is quinoa.”
The poet Mark McCain received an e-mail, which had been sent to numerous American poets, inviting him to sign a “poetition” requesting that President Barack H. Obama pardon Edward Snowden. The request took the form of a poem written by Merrill Jensen, whom Mark knew to be twenty-eight years old, a full nine years his junior. The poem-petition rhymed “Snowden” with “pardon.” And “pardon” with “Rose Garden.” And “Rose Garden” with “nation.” And “nation” with “Eden.” It rhymed—or, as Mark preferred to put it, it echoed—“Putin” and “boot in” and “Clinton” and “no disputing.” “Russia” echoed “U.S.A.”; and “U.S.A.” “Thoreau”; and “Thoreau” “hero.”
Mark forwarded the e-mail to the poet E. W. West. He wrote:
Am I crazy to find this enraging?
Within seconds Liz wrote back:
They arranged to have coffee that afternoon.