THE ABSTRACT – “Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future” is as heartwarming as it is important.

In her debut book Eight Bears: Mythic Past and Imperiled Future, journalist Gloria Dickie provides a global exploration of the world’s eight remaining bear species, the threats they face, and their precarious relationship with humans. Dickie embarks on a journey from the cloud forests of the Andes to the ice floes of the Arctic, and from the jungles of India to the Rocky Mountain West in the US, revealing the fascinating stories of these species, some well-known like the panda and polar bears, and others less familiar, such as the spectacled and sloth bears.

Throughout her travels, she documents heartwarming efforts of conservationists like the Chinese scientist known as “Papa Panda,” who’s spent four decades breeding pandas, and the biologist who spearheaded the revival of grizzly bears in the US. She also presents somber accounts of the horrifying conditions faced by sun and moon bears in Vietnam, and the struggles of sloth bears in India due to deforestation.

A significant focus of Dickie’s exploration is the impact of climate change on these bear species, including a stark increase in bear-human encounters and devastating losses of habitat. For example, she notes the alarming consequences of climate change on polar bears, which are shrinking in size and number due to the loss of their sea ice habitat, a change that could potentially result in its complete disappearance by 2035.

Eight Bears weaves ecology, history, mythology, and vivid personal observations into a compelling account of her travels. The overarching theme of DIckie’s narrative is the importance of learning to coexist with these magnificent mammals, who have deeply influenced our cultures, landscapes, and narratives, and what we risk losing if we fail to do so. Her clear-eyed reporting and captivating prose serve as a stark warning of the grim future these species face, making a strong case for urgent and robust conservation efforts.

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