Strengthening the Soul?

Reading A Blizzard of Polar Bears in the cold Chicago trip was probably poetic justice. For it made me appreciate that every creature is different. Obviously, the polar bears found anywhere south of Manitoba too hot, and we found anywhere north of California too cold. It was strengthening for the soul to think of the polar bears when it was too cold. 

A Blizzard of Polar Bears – By Alice Henderson

This strengthening-of-the-self theme seemed to grate on the daughter when she casually mentioned something in the middle of a snowing day walking up a steep hill. “Well, uphills and stiff winds against our progress are character building things.” I huffed. “If in life, we only rolled downhill, how would we appreciate the ease of that?”

She stopped midway and said, “I do wish you were a polar bear now you know?”

She had a point:  I don’t think polar bear mothers give character building speeches when they are freezing across a cold stream of air. But I had a set of speeches to get through, and was determined to get through them. I mean, how else can one cover syllabus? 

I must say the more I read about naturalists and biologists doing the work required to keep biodiversity alive on our beautiful planets, the more I am in awe of them. 

In the book, Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World, Emma Marris notes:

“These are species we cannot simply leave alone if we want them to persist. They are species that require intervention-at least for now. A 2010 analysis of the 1,136 species with recovery plans under the Endangered Species Act in the United States found that 84 percent require ongoing management.”

Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World, Emma Marris

Chicago streets, we were told, need watching. There are areas that are good, and areas that are notorious for mob activity. I must say, the movies play it up a bit, but even the cab drivers and hoteliers there acknowledged it. Keep out of these streets, those streets, south of those streets and north of these streets and you should be fine, said one helpful fellow. Oh, and try not to be out too late. You know? Just to be safe. 

So, as evening fell, we decided to go bookstore browsing instead. Once inside, the familiar tug of books waiting to be read was enough to warm up the innards (the doors keeping out the gasps of cold air was useful too). Our discussion turned towards pricing of books and fiction vs non-fiction, etc. While I can see the point that fiction generally requires less research than their non-fiction counterparts, I couldn’t help thinking that I had actually learnt as much about polar bear research from the fiction book, A Blizzard of Polar Bears – By Alice Walker as from the non-fiction book,  Ice Walker – A Polar Bear’s Journey Through the Fragile Arctic – James Raffan

To see the kind of measurements taken by polar bear researchers to determine the health of the population and the steps necessary to save them in a changing ice-cap is enlightening whether set in the context of a thriller novel or a non-fiction book following the path of the polar bears. For instance: nuggets such as these spotted the book liberally. 

“According to the database, the bear had been collared four years ago. Because that was the upper limit of how long a collar could last, Alex removed it. They had less invasive technology now. 3M had developed the Burr of Fur, a small GPS tracking device that adhered to a bear’s coat. She recorded the device Id’s numbers on the spreadsheet and then worked it into the bear’s hair.”

“First she ran a test for persistent organic pollutants containing chlorine, fluorine, and bromine. Then she examined the sampled of the presence of industrial compounds like PCBs. These could compromise a body’s ability to produce antibodies, making humans and wildlife more susceptible to infection.”

A Blizzard of Polar Bears

In general, we do learn from fiction and non-fiction in different ways. Our emotional quotient benefits from a good spot of fiction, and we turn out more empathetic than we were before. With non-fiction, we are able to read the research, compare the measures, and get a good spot of analytical outlook-ing. “They are both strengthening for the soul huh?” I said, and the daughter rolled her eyes. 

“You know what is really strengthening for the soul? Starbucks! Come on – let’s go!” Said she, and the compliant polar bear followed her cub as it nosed out the coffee den.

Polar Bears
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