In The Eye of the Sandpiper, Brandon Keim pairs cutting-edge science with a deep love of nature, conveying his insights in prose that is both accessible and beautiful. In an elegant, thoughtful tour of nature in the twenty-first century, Keim continues in the tradition of Lewis Thomas, Stephen Jay Gould, and David Quammen, reporting from the frontiers of science while celebrating the natural world's wonders and posing new questions about our relationship to the rest of life on Earth.
The stories are arranged in four thematic sections. Each addresses nature through a different lens. The first is evolutionary and ecological dynamics, from how patterns form on butterfly wings to the ecological importance of oft-reviled lampreys. The second section explores the inner lives of animals, which science has only recently embraced: empathy in rats, emotions in honeybees, spirituality in chimpanzees. The third section contains stories of people acting on insights both ecological and ethological: nourishing blighted rivers, but also caring for injured pigeons at a hospital for wild birds and demanding legal rights for primates. The fourth section unites ecology and ethology in discussions of ethics: how we should think about and behave toward nature, and the place of wildness in a world in which space for wilderness is shrinking.
"What happens when appreciation of ecology's wonders and animal consciousness collide with 7.5 billion humans in an era dubbed the Anthropocene, the human age, in which our needs and whims have planetary consequences?" writes Keim. "Epochal issues, yet realized in our everyday settings: a vacant lot, a dammed river, a pigeon with a broken wing. To appreciate more deeply a skipper butterfly's flight or a mockingbird's songs, to look at a river and see something that yesterday was invisible, is no small thing. It is a richer experience of being human."