Book Report: Fuzz

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

After the last book I read, I needed something a little more light-hearted to entertain me. I’d been hearing good things about Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, by Mary Roach, so I chose it from the “Books to Read” stack in my office. At least I knew I’d enjoy holding it, because the fake merit badge on the book jacket is embossed and feels cool.

I do love the book jacket.

Mary Roach is a very popular science writer, because she’s known for her humor, but this was my first book of hers to read. She just oozes folksy humor, puns, and silly digressions, and I think they could actually be irritating for some readers. I had set out to read something amusing, so I got what I asked for.

In addition to entertaining us, though, Roach educates us. I think I originally thought Fuzz would be a series of cute stories about naughty bears and coyotes, but it instead provides fascinating information about how animals and people can have deleterious effects on each other.

I learned about bears and why the eat the trash in some resort areas but not others (people follow the garbage can rules in one place better), how people cause many of the animal pest problems (boy, we made a lot of mistakes in the 1800s by bringing European animals into places like Australia and New Zealand), and how hard it is to get deer to not run into the road and just stare at oncoming cars. There really are a lot of ways humans and animals can run into conflict.

Sometimes Roach makes me laugh, just by revealing how little background knowledge she has in some areas that I seem to have picked up by living here at the Hermits’ Rest. She mentions more than once how she’s baffled that someone can be both an animal lover and a hunter, for example. We learn all about that in Master Naturalist classes.

It’s sort of like a high school band mom decides to write a science book, and is happy to share her naivete with her readers. It’s pretty charming, though you know she can’t be as naïve as she sounds, because she managed to arrange to travel all over the world and meet with specialists of all sorts in order to ask them her sort of silly questions. At least she had to be a master of logistics!

After reading this book and laughing, groaning, or grimacing at the jokes, you’ll end up knowing a lot more about the complex interrelationships between humans and all kinds of animals. I know Mary Roach hopes you’ll agree to live with a little irritation (yeah, even grackles and squirrels have their roles to play in the ecosystem) so that we can all enjoy the only world we’ve been given to live in. I’m up for it!

Can People You Disagree with Be Smart?

I don’t know about you, but I’m growing really tired of reading, “Wake up, America!” I’m totally over calling people who do or do not wear masks or go to restaurants “stupid.” It sure feels to me like all of us are being manipulated to find even more ridiculous ways to divide up our citizens so that we’ll focus on yelling at each other rather than figuring out ways to better ALL of our lives.

If you don’t agree with me, you are a stupid sheep person. Or something like that.

This may come as a shock, but I don’t think that all people who question the guidelines we’ve been asked to follow about keeping safe from the coronavirus are stupid. Nope. Here’s what I actually think:

  • They have different priorities from me
  • They have very different life experiences from me
  • They value the ability to do what you as an individual want to more than they value a desire to do what’s best for all
  • They learn from different sources of information
  • They’re influenced by those around them, in their social and cultural circles

Now, all those things could be said about me and my friends if the third item about values was switched around. So, if I think I’m smart and you can say that about me, well, then, all those other folks can also be smart.

I’ve read some quite interesting perspectives from people who would like to mingle more freely that do make perfect sense, given a different set of assumptions than I would make. I’m glad I have read them, because it helps me be clear that there’s more than one way to look at anything. I respect these friends and acquaintances and hope their decisions work out for them, just as I hope mine work out for me.

I really only worry about people who let themselves be fanned into a fury, threatening to hurt nurses or punch people who don’t wear face coverings. None of that’s gonna help any of us live productive lives, earn a living, and enjoy our families, is it?

Let’s take a break from the divisiveness. Image by@paolo2012 via Twenty20

My plea to all is that we make the effort to form our opinions and act based on information from trusted sources and that we make an effort to understand how others might conclude differently. We’re all trying to take care of ourselves. I hope most of us can also try to not harm others as we take care of ourselves, even if we value personal liberty over the collective good. We need each other.

PS: This was just what came out of my head and into the keyboard. I could be completely wrong, perhaps even, dare I say, stupid? But, maybe it will help us think about our own biases and sources.