Pre-thinking:

Starting from the simple story of how the Teddy bear got its name, Mooallem goes on to discuss how the stories we tell about the natural world affect the species we choose to preserve of ignore. What that says about us as a people may be the most important thing he tells us.

Why you should listen:

What do we see when we look at wild animals — do we respond to human-like traits, or thrill to the idea of their utter unfamiliarity? Jon Mooallem’s book, Wild Ones , examines our relationship with wild animals both familiar and feral, telling stories of the North American environmental movement from its unlikely birth, and following three species who’ve come to symbolize our complicated relationship with whatever “nature” even means anymore.

Who is he:

Mooallem has written about everything from the murder of Hawaiian monk seals, to Idahoan utopians, to the world’s most famous ventriloquist, to the sad, secret history of the invention of the high five. A recent piece, “American Hippopotamus,” was an Atavist story on, really, a plan in 1910 to jumpstart the hippopotamus ranching industry in America.

Questions:

  1. Mooallem opens by telling us about the Teddy bear and how it got its name and became a toy. What is the sportsmen’s code that Roosevelt refused to go against?
  1. How did this toy help to reshape the nation’s ideas about bears?
  1. Bears no longer had a place in our advancing civilization said one government biologist of this period. How has this idea changed over the last hundred years?
  1. Nature could start to seem pure and adorable because we didn’t have to be afraid of it anymore. Why does he say this?What does he mean by the term” conservation reliance”?
  1. As a psychologist how do you explain the idea “So we exert our power, then we’re unsettled by how powerful we are.”

How the teddy bear taught us compassion with Jon Mooallem

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