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. The author says that, in America, 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 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; and 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. Download and start listening now!