“Kill him, or die, but do not wound this animal.” This command slingshotted through the mind of Alvah Simon. The Roger Henry, painted white rather than traditional high visibility red, was wedged against an Arctic ice island. As far as the polar bear staring at Simon was concerned, the boat was both ice floe and a convenient larder. Simon is an explorer, not a hunter. The bear lived. Simon and his cat Halifax were icebound overwinter in the Arctic, and his book “North to the Night” is a testament to survival. But it is also an indictment. Do we continue to accept the creeping normalcy of global warming, or do we trim our lifestyles and save the polar bear?

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Barcelona-based design company nanimarquina want to save the polar bear. Their rug “Global Warming” (issued 2008) is beautiful but poignant. Designed by NEL Collective, a glacial blue expanse of wool surrounds a small white floe of ice. On it stands a cutout wool felt polar bear. NEL describe its narrative value as within the tradition of rugs as a “means for communication and a cultural record”. (More text after image break.)

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Global Warming rug by NEL Collective for nanimarquina. Image courtesy of nanimarquina.

Halifax the cat hopped from ice floe to ice floe during his time in the Arctic. He was fearless. He faced down polar bears. If he and Simon can conquer the seemingly impossible, then so too all of us. We can comfortably cut back on our use of global resources. That is the message of nanimarquina and NEL Collective. If we do not, then Ursus maritimus will become the white elephant of the North; an irreplaceable part of the global ecosystem reduced to a cost too high to sustain in its native habitat. Is this too much to ask of a rug? Perhaps not if its inherent message allows us to consider and alter our lifestyles. DJ

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