The Land Ethic When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. This hanging involved no question of propriety.
For whatever reason—perhaps because our ancestors lived in trees—surrounding oneself with birches and maples produces in nearly everyone feelings of warmth, comfort, and peace.
And for many people, nature is more than refreshing: Natural environments are, for some, more uplifting than cathedrals. Emerson might have captured this strai What a dull world if we knew all about geese! Emerson might have captured this strain of mystical naturalism best: In the woods, we return to reason and faith.
I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being flow through me; I am part or particle of God. I myself have had comparable experiences in the woods. Yet both Emerson and I are pure amateurs next to Aldo Leopold.
Leopold was a pioneering conservationist and forester.
He was also a superlative writer, and in this brief book he covers a lot of ground. He begins with a month-by-month account of Sand County, a poor farming region in Wisconsin.
He has a keen sense of both the history of environments—how they change with the seasons, how they have evolved through time, how they have been warped by human activity—and the close-knit interdependence of ecosystems, how each organism shapes and is shaped by every other organism, forming a perfect whole.
As a stylist, he manages to be lyrical and poetic while sticking scrupulously to what he sees and hears. His sentences are short, his diction simple, and yet he manages to evoke a densely complex ecosystem.
This is because, unlike Emerson or I—and more so than Thoreau—Leopold really understood his environment.
He can name every species of plant, and tell what soils they prefer and what plants they like as neighbors.
He can identify every bird by its call, and knows where it roosts, what it eats, when it migrates, and how it mates. Scratches on a tree tell him a deer is nearby, his antlers fully grown; the footprints in snow tell him a skunk has passed, and how recently.
All this is described with exquisite sensitivity, but no romantic embellishment. To borrow a phrase from E. In the rest of the book, Leopold puts forward a new philosophy of conservation. In that book, Jane Jacobs explains how top-down approaches to city planning killed neighborhood vitality.
Just so, when Leopold was a young man in the forestry service, he participated in the policy of removing predators—bears, wolves, and mountain lions—to protect livestock and to increase the supply of hunting animals, like deer.
When hunting became necessary to control population, parks began building more and more roads to make access easier; and meanwhile the exploding deer population prevented new trees from growing.
Thus the park was encroached upon by cars, and the ecosystem thrown off balance—in the same way that blindly building highways and public housing can destroy neighborhoods. Leopold was, I believe, one of the first to popularize the idea that ecosystems act like one giant organism, with a delicate balance of cooperating and competing components.
Every healthy ecosystem is a harmony that cannot be disturbed without unpredictable results. Complexity like this tends to be a product of historical growth, with each distinct component making minute adjustments to each other in a dense network of influence.
Leopold believed that this approach was too narrow; since hunting lodges and mechanized farms are always more profitable in the short term, this would eventually result in the destruction of wild ecosystems and the disappearance of species. We needed to move beyond arguments of expediency and see the land—and everything on it—as valuable for its own sake.
Leopold believed that we had an ethical duty to preserve ecosystems and all their species, and that the aesthetic reward of wild nature was more valuable than dollars and cents could measure.
I want to go along with this, but I thought that Leopold was unsatisfyingly vague in this direction. It is simply not enough to say that we have an ethical duty to preserve nature; this is quite a claim, and requires quite a bit of argument. Further, aesthetic value seems like a slender reed to rest on.
For every Emerson and Thoreau, there is a Babbitt whose tastes are not so refined. To his credit, Leopold does argue that a great part of conservation must consist in elevating the public taste in nature. Otherwise, conservation will consist of little more than the government using tax dollars to purchase large swaths of land.
Individuals must see the value in wilderness and actively participate in preserving it.A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold starting at $ A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River has 1 available editions to buy at Half Price Books Marketplace.
Buy Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River 49 edition () by Aldo Leopold for up to 90% off at timberdesignmag.com A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There is a non-fiction book by American ecologist, forester, and environmentalist Aldo timberdesignmag.combing the land around the author's home in Sauk County, Wisconsin, the collection of essays advocate Leopold's idea of a "land ethic", or a responsible relationship existing between people and the land they inhabit.
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Conservation . A Sand County Almanac is a combination of natural history, scene painting with words, and philosophy.
It is perhaps best known for the following quote, which defines his land ethic: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. Sand County Almanac With Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold available in Mass Market on timberdesignmag.com, also read synopsis and reviews.
The environmental classic that redefined the way we think about the natural world--an urgent call /5(3).