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.
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.
"[...] Few of the essays draw any strong conclusions. Often, after a thoughtful weighing of the evidence, an exposure of our prejudices and past misjudgements, we are left with a dilemma or a question. The writing has the character of a one-to-one conversation – a conversation with someone both knowledgeable and wise: someone too honest to pretend to know all of the answers but whose insights are well worthy of our attention."
– Barry Gray, Ibis, May 2022
"[...] His thoughtful, often philosophical approach is the result of many years of working as an ornithologist in statutory nature-conservation bodies. Arguments are balanced and I generally found myself in agreement with his position [...] Essentially, though, this pocket-sized book is a personal journey, an exploration of the importance of nature in the life of the author. By extension, he makes the case for its importance for all of us."
– James Robertson, British Wildlife 33(1), October 2021
"A wise, thoughtful and very readable series of essays from someone who spent his working life at the forefront of nature conservation, and has now shared his accumulated wisdom with the rest of us."
– Stephen Moss, author and naturalist
"A highly enjoyable read – informative, thought-provoking and above all balanced. Ian Carter wears his copious knowledge extremely lightly."
– Lev Parikian, author of Into The Tangled Bank and Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear?
"I love the warmth and refreshing candour of Ian's writing. Readable and relatable – this is an enriching book, from a reliable witness. Highly recommended."
– Conor Jameson, author and conservationist
"Ian Carter offers highly readable musings on the most pressing issues facing Britain's beleaguered wildlife. Balancing obvious expertise with refreshing honesty, Carter ponders everything from non-native species and the conflicts between gamekeepers and raptors, to the value of urban wildlife and the need to reconnect with nature. His infectious passion for the great outdoors sings from every page."
– Dan Eatherley, author of Invasive Aliens
"It has been a real pleasure for me as a country-dweller to read Ian Carter's work, because he somehow tells it like it is more than any other rural writer I know [...] Mr Carter knows the countryside [...] What he describes is not a fancied landscape cloaked with nostalgia or the ethereal pastures of the far-fetched poet, but a very real place in which birds fly and die in equal measure."
– Martin Hesp, journalist and novelist
"A deeply engaging account of our complex relationship with the natural world. Drawing on his conservation expertise and lifelong passion for wildlife, Ian explores a wide range of contentious issues and shares the joy of reconnecting with nature in this enlightening, honest and very accessible book."
– Nic Wilson, nature writer and Guardian Country Diarist
"A wonderful collection of heartfelt, insightful essays – each one like a privileged chat about the highs, lows and many conundrums of three decades working with nature, from one of its most personable and pragmatic champions. We need people like Ian."
– Dr Amy-Jane Beer, naturalist, writer and campaigner
"Human, Nature deserves to be read very widely [...] here is a book that considers all the most pressing questions we face as we attempt to understand and fundamentally change our relationship with the natural world. Most importantly, it makes the connections between them, and quietly asserts the need for us to start making more connections – between sites, whole landscapes, and each other."
– Matt Merritt, editor of Bird Watching Magazine and author of A Sky Full of Birds
"This book is a highlight of my non-fiction reading this year to date. Thought provoking, accessible and beautifully written, it is one of the best accounts I have ever read of the complex relationship between humans and wildlife, celebrating the huge benefits it can bring and full of wise comment on the dilemmas it often poses."
– Jonathan Elphick, Natural history author and editor