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Polar Bear Flip-Flop: People Hated, Then Loved These Photos. What Changed? : Krulwich Wonders... : NPR


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Thirteen years later, polar bears hadn't changed, but our sense of them had. By 2007, most people had seen scenes of weak, starving bears struggling to stay on shrinking hunks of melting ice. The earth was warming and polar bears had no place to go. Suddenly, they were vulnerable, heading to extinction. Animals, says Mooallem are "free-roaming Rorschachs." We see them through the heavy filter of our own feelings, our own needs. And our filter for polar bears had flipped. Animals who'd once been proud and vicious had become "delicate, drowning" victims, lonely animals — who now just might need the companionship of a friendly husky — who might come to a backyard, looking for a hug.

Jon Mooallem believes that the stories we tell ourselves about animals totally color how we see them. "Emotion matters. Imagination matters, and we are free to spin whatever stories we want about them." The wild animals, he says, "always have no comment."

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