As Ian Carter puts it, the many and varied connections he has with nature play a significant part in making his life feel worthwhile. They have provided the material for the journals he has kept over three decades, and form the substance of this book. His thoughts on the conundrums and contradictions in the way humans interact with wildlife build into a thoughtful and timely look at contemporary relationships between people and nature.
The book is divided into four parts, each a collection of short essays on a particular theme. He starts with wildlife on the doorstep, reflections on his day-to-day contact with wildlife. The second part explores some ideas and issues which fall out from contact with nature. A section on conflicts follows in which he tackles different perspectives on introduced species, rescuing some species and killing others, meddling with nature in the interests of particular species, and the matter of reintroductions. Readers may recognise his views on some of these, as they have appeared in British Wildlife, for example in a letter about the dangers of sentimentality in conservation (BW 29: 155) and a comment piece on reintroductions (BW 32: 43–48). A final section describes some wild and not so wild places which offer escape from the oppressions of the human world. This includes a description of his move from the flatlands of Cambridgeshire to sparsely populated mid Devon, which resonated with me.
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: for example, when he says that reintroductions should be a last resort and not one conceived with publicity, rather than conservation, as the primary purpose. 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.