| Ian Carter | Pelagic Publishing | 2021 | Hardback | 224 Pages | ISBN: 9781784272579 | £15.99p
The Publisher’s View:
What does it mean to be a part of – rather than apart from – nature? Human, Nature is about how we interact with wildlife and the ways in which this can make our lives richer and more fulfilling. But it also explores the conflicts and contradictions inevitable in a world that is now so completely dominated by our own species.
Interest in wildlife and wild places, and their profound effects on human wellbeing, have increased sharply as we face up to the ongoing biodiversity extinction crisis and reassess our priorities following a global pandemic. Ian Carter, lifelong naturalist and a former bird specialist at Natural England, sets out to uncover the intricacies of the relationship between humans and nature. In a direct, down-to-earth style he explains some of the key practical, ethical and philosophical problems we must navigate as we seek to reconnect with nature.
This wide-ranging and infectiously personal account does not shy away from controversial subjects – such as how we handle invasive species, reintroductions, culling or dog ownership – and reveals in stark terms that properly addressing our connection to the natural world is an imperative, not a luxury.
Short, pithy chapters make Human, Nature ideal for dipping into. Meanwhile, it builds into a compelling whole as the story moves from considering the wildlife close to home through to conflicts and, finally, the joy and sense of escape that can be had in the wildest corners of our landscapes, where there is still so much to discover.
The Author: Ian Carter took early retirement after twenty-five years as an ornithologist with Natural England. He was closely involved with the Red Kite reintroduction programme and wider work on the conservation of birds of prey, bird reintroductions and wildlife management. The cultural and philosophical aspects of nature conservation have always fascinated him, especially their influence on our attitudes towards the natural world. He has written articles for wildlife magazines including British Birds, British Wildlife and Birdwatch, and has co-authored papers in scientific journals. He wrote The Red Kite (Arlequin Press 2007) and, with Dan Powell, The Red Kite’s Year (Pelagic Publishing 2019), and has been on the Editorial Board of the journal British Birds for over twenty years. He keeps a wildlife diary and has written something in it (however dull) every day for over thirty-five years.
The sub-title may slightly mislead as this book is as much about how people’s views or culture influence nature, as much as it is about nature and wild places. In my opinion it is all the better for that.
The chapter entitled ‘The culture of killing’ illustrates this well. Therein our reaction to birds being killed is shown to be as much influenced by our prejudices or love of certain species over others as it is about killing birds per se, or about legal, humane, control, commercial protection or any other attitude or conviction.
It doesn’t quite go far enough, as far as I am concerned, in as much as it neglects to consider how a killing culture effects the individuals concerned or how they, sometimes disproportionately, effect wider culture.
I found myself disagreeing quite a lot with the author, and did wonder how much his views were influenced by his career where, surely deep frustration with conservation protection must be coupled with the pressure to compromise between conflicting wishes and pursuits.
But, disagreement is the stuff of life as far as I am concerned, only by expressing opposing views can we progress through that process of education and enlightenment.
Throughout the book you will be struck with how cogent and simply put his ideas are in a world where techno-speak and esoteric language is often used to obscure and reify what is, in essence straightforward despite being aspects of a supremely complex ecology.
It’s a good read and touches upon some of the most important issues facing us all that need resolving before we assign nature to history and ourselves to oblivion!
I bet once you pick this book up you will be tempted to put things on hold while you read the lot in one sitting!