Humans form cities from concrete, metal, and glass, designing structures and infrastructure primarily to serve a single bipedal species. Walking down a familiar city street, it is easy to overlook squirrels climbing in trees, weeds growing up through cracks in the concrete, and pigeons pecking along the sidewalk. Those creatures that do manage to live all around us, thriving alongside humans, are rarely celebrated for their ingenuity. In many cases, however, such synanthropes (from the Greek syn [“together with”] + anthro [“man”]) tell fascinating stories of urban fortitude.
Author Nathanael Johnson began digging into some of these everyday urban species, leading him to write Unseen City: The Majesty of Pigeons, the Discreet Charm of Snails & Other Wonders of the Urban Wilderness.