Ian Carter needs no introduction to readers of BB, as much for his time on the BB Editorial Panel and his own contributions to BB eye and Reviews pages as for his career in practical bird conservation. To some extent, Human, Nature is autobiographical and, not surprisingly, there is much written about Ian’s deep love of birds and wildlife and what we now term, for want of a better phrase, ‘the environment’; but the meat of this book really lies in the search for answers to rather more philosophical matters. It is with these that, probably due to my own background in similar things, I developed a great empathy for what Ian has written. Time and again, I found myself remembering doubts and dilemmas, arguments lost, won or abandoned, the frustration and, even, the anger when dealing with such issues. How do we use our growing scientific knowledge to best effect, and indeed persuade people that it matters? Where do we draw lines between idealism and pragmatism? Do emotions still count when putting forward a case and should we avoid extremism and always aim for some sort of compromise and balance? We must somehow find answers to all these questions, and more, if we and our environment, ‘wild’ or ‘managed’, is to move towards a better future.
These are all topics Ian addresses full on, honestly and wisely. Chords will be struck in the minds of many people; there is a lot here for all of us to think about. To weave all of this into such an entertaining and evocative personal account is quite an achievement and makes Human, Nature an eminently readable, thoughtful, honest and fascinating contribution to modern birding literature, which I can thoroughly and unreservedly recommend.