A hydrophone reveals a vital Antarctic feeding and breeding ground for the world’s second-largest whale.
In 2018, a German newspaper asked me if I would be interested in having a conversation with the philosopher Emanuele Coccia, who had just written a book about plants, Die Wurzeln der Welt (published in English as The Life of Plants). I was happy to say yes.
The German title of Coccia’s book translates as “The Roots of the World,” and the book really does cover this. It upends our view of the living world, putting plants at the top of the hierarchy with humans down at the bottom. I had been giving a great deal of thought to this myself. Ranking the natural world and scoring species according to their importance or their superiority seemed to me outdated. It distorts our view of nature and makes all the other species around us seem more primitive and somehow unfinished. For some time now, I have not been comfortable with viewing humans as the crown of creation, separating animals into higher and lower life-forms, and treating plants as something on the side, definitively banished to a lower level.
“Hey! There she is!” my friend cried, pointing toward the peregrine falcon as it landed with its prey on a seaside cliff, about six meters beneath me. As bluish-green waves crashed below, the massive bird began tearing apart an invasive dove. To capture the action, I carefully maneuvered into place using balancing techniques that I learned during my years as a rock climber. With my camera and telephoto lens in hand, I leaned over the steep drop-off. Neither of my two photographer friends dared to try for the image, but I found pleasure in the moment.
I’ve been watching this specific individual for a few years now. Its beauty, speed, power, and grace are a constant source of awe along this parcel of Northern California, where it chooses to build its nest year after year. Though the Pacific coastline from Alaska to Mexico is a vital flyway, the bird will stay in the area after the nesting season is over to make sure no other peregrine falcons claim its prime coastal territory.