Books: On Thin Ice: The Changing World of the Polar Bear

Richard Ellis traces the natural and cultural history of polar bears.

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Polar bears are the cuddly mascots of our rapidly warming world. But as Richard Ellis writes in this exhaustive work of natural and cultural history, we haven’t always been so eager to save them. As early as the 1600s, Arctic explorers’ first instinct was to shoot the “greate leane white beare,” mostly for sport, but sometimes for food (though sailors who ate its vitamin A-rich liver found that their “skinnes peeled off”). After a winter trapped in the ice, a 19th century Norwegian explorer reported that “Roasted cub-stake and tasty bear’s tongue made a welcome addition to our menu.”

It was when P.T. Barnum and others conscripted bears into circus duty in the 1800s that the public began to see them as entertainment. Fast-forward to 2007, when “Cute Knut,” a cub born at the Berlin Zoo, shared the cover of Vanity Fair‘s “green issue” with Leonardo DiCaprio and kicked off a war between German zoos vying to acquire the most adorable white furballs.

Even as we fetishize polar bears, we’re still killing them off, now with carbon emissions and habitat encroachment. The bears’ hunting grounds are melting and shrinking, killing some and driving others to dumpster diving. Great white bears in the backyard, writes Ellis, might be the kind of wake-up call we need to start taking their survival seriously.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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