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

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

Jon Mooallem

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0143125370

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

"Ambitious and fascinating... [Mooallem] seamlessly blends reportage from the front lines of wildlife conservation with a lively cultural history of animals in America." --New York Times Book Review

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, to move beyond childlike fascination and make those creatures feel more real. Wild Ones is 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. In America, Wild Ones discovers, wildlife has always inhabited the terrain of our imagination as much as the actual land.

The journey is framed by the stories of three modern-day endangered species: the polar bear, victimized by climate change and ogled by tourists outside a remote northern town; the little-known Lange’s metalmark butterfly, foundering on a shred of industrialized land near San Francisco; and the whooping crane as it’s led on a months-long migration by costumed men in ultralight airplanes. The wilderness that Wild Ones navigates is a scrappy, disorderly place where amateur conservationists do grueling, sometimes preposterous-looking work; where a marketer maneuvers to control the polar bear’s image while Martha Stewart turns up to film those beasts for her show on the Hallmark Channel. 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.

With propulsive curiosity and searing wit, and without the easy moralizing and nature worship of environmental journalism’s older guard, Wild Ones merges reportage, science, and history into a humane and endearing meditation on what it means to live in, and bring a life into, a broken world.

--And don’t miss the album based on the book: WILD ONES by Black Prairie.  Digital release on May 14; physical release on June 11--


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we’d been dispensing like SeaWorld trainers reaching into their fanny packs for smelt. Then, quietly, mercifully, she had fallen asleep in Wandee’s arms, her hand shoved down the neck of Wandee’s shirt in lieu of holding a stuffed animal. When the two bears approached, Wandee and I had agreed it was unwise to wake her. We were only four hours into at least an eight-hour day, and—to be honest—I never quite appreciated the magical appeal of staring into the eyes of a polar bear at close range

And she still seemed to have no saturation point—for her, newness never got old. In the last moments of our Tundra Buggy tour, we pulled alongside a small bear, slogging toward us from the middle distance. Isla leaned out of Wandee’s arms and through the window. Then she turned to me and said, “Look, Daddy! Polar bear!” as though it were still surprising, as though the only two words she had for that thing still needed to be said out loud. 5. THE LIFT After we got home to San

me. All she would say is “Rudi knows more about butterflies than I ever will.” The ranks of California butterfly people are riddled with eccentrics. (I heard about a lepidopterist with a fantastically large collection of cocktail swizzle sticks, for example, and one who performs in a cowboy-costumed vaudevillian song-and-dance duo—come to think of it, I’m not sure they aren’t actually the same guy.) But I was quickly getting the impression that Rudi Mattoni stands out. For decades, he’d been

the gang and thrust out its wings as though it were going to spurt into the sky. But it seldom left the ground. And when it did get airborne, it bailed out after a quarter-mile at most and had to be tracked down on foot by OM’s costumed ground crew. Often the bird would land deep in the woods, or far off the road in a gauntlet of farm fields and six-foot-deep irrigation ditches, and the ground crew would have to hike in after it, then hoist it in a wooden crate on their backs, all the way back to

people in Churchill as being hunkered down in fear. And, worse, it made the bears look like monsters, twisting the animals to fit the stereotype that viewers would already know. “The guy in the cage, he’s going, ‘Oh no, the bear really wants to eat me!’” Ratson said. “But these bears are bored stupid. You put a guy in a cage and it smells like food, what’s the bear going to do? A lot of film crews want to portray the bear as this reckless, violent, bloodthirsty man-eating creature,” he told me,

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