Wild Ones

Wild Ones

A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America

Book - 2013
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Journalist Jon Mooallem has watched his little daughter's world overflow with animals butterfly pajamas, appliquéd owls--while the actual world she's inheriting slides into a great storm of extinction. Half of all species could disappear by the end of the century, and scientists now concede that most of America's endangered animals will survive only if conservationists keep rigging the world around them in their favor. So Mooallem ventures into the field, often taking his daughter with him, on a tour through our environmental moment and the eccentric cultural history of people and wild animals in America that inflects it--from Thomas Jefferson's celebrations of early abundance to the turn-of the-last-century origins of the teddy bear to the whale-loving hippies of the 1970s. Our most comforting ideas about nature unravel. In their place, Mooallem forges a new and affirming vision of the human animal and the wild ones as kindred creatures on an imperfect planet.--From publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 2013
ISBN: 9781594204425
159420442X
Characteristics: 339 p. ; 24 cm

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mlharr
May 21, 2016

The author had noticed that his infant daughter's world was filled to the brim with wild animals. They were on her clothes and her bedding and in her picture books. They were not, however, actually, physically present in her world. She'd never seen anything more wild than a pet dog. So the author set out to find out what was happening with wild animals in America, and to expose his daughter to them.

Wild Ones has three parts: Bears, Butterflies, and Birds. The author travels to Canada to find out about polar bear conservation efforts in a place called Churchhill, then to California to find out about butterfly conservation, and finally to Florida to learn about whooping crane conservation. He is able to take his toddler daughter on day trips to see polar bears and butterflies, but it turned out the whooping crane set-up was too tentative to plan for with a toddler. But that ended up totally not being the main point of the book.

Jon Mooallem did a fantastic job of remaining neutral in tone as he wrote about three different groups' conservation efforts. I learned so much and never once felt "preached to," the way you sometimes do with these save-the-animals books. The hubby has very, very strong opinions on stuff like this (he would say he's "anti-hippie/let-nature-run-it's-course") and I felt comfortable recommending this book to him. It's fascinating to learn what's being done; the lengths that some people are going to in order to save some iconic species, like the polar bear. And the author doesn't just stop with describing current efforts- he also talks about past efforts, the current outlook for the species in question, and what more or less could be done. He talks with conservationists who are working their tails off because they honestly believe that their small group can save a whole species, and he talks with conservationists who honestly acknowledge that they're barely a stop-gap in the decline of the species.

Because Mooallem isn't a scientist himself, but a "regular folk" like you and me, this book is highly readable. I highly recommend it! I will warn you, though: you might be left, like me, with a strong desire to travel to Canada to see polar bears. :)

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