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Aldo Leopold

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Throughout his career, Leopold published many philosophical essays on various aspects of ecology, wildlife biology and management, wilderness, etc. After his sudden death in 1948 when he joined his neighbor to fight a grass fire in a farmyard adjacent to his “shack”, his property in Wisconsin, his essays with blend of natural history and philosophy found a powerful meaning through his book A Sand County Almanac.

the Philosophy of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic in A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac, published in 1949, constitutes experiential essays at different settings around farms and wildernesses in Canada, Mexico and the United States. The book emphasizes values of receptivity and perceptivity that appear to be mutually reinforcing, critical to an ecological conscience, and cultivatable through concrete and embodied experience. It is a month by month observation of nature on the farm, an artist description of the land and its communities (Garcia, R. 2006). Considered as Conservationist’s bible, the book was turned down for publishing multiple times and gained remarkable recognition only during 1960s environmental awareness.

It also accounts for the evolution of Leopold’s principles over time as recognized in “Thinking like a mountain”, where he shifts from the idea of hunting to eliminate top predators to make game plentiful to the idea of how serious implications of removal of one single species carries for the rest of the ecosystem.

However, “The Land Ethic” in A Sand County Almanac constitute a milestone in the discourse on human–environment relationships. Leopold draws the “intrinsic- value-in nature” through his illustrations of land (Hinchman, P.L. 1995). Leopold (1949) demonstrates humans as “plain member and citizen rather than conquerors”, of the land community. He mentions that “the land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land” ( Leopold, A. 1949. Pg.109). He terms community as biotic community where man is only a member and where actions of men as grazing, plowing have degraded the land over and for a longer period of time. In “Land ethics”, Leopold calls for an ecological conscience to create the balance than human domination on nature. He argues the use of education in raising the conscience mostly made invalid by human’s selfish reasons. He clarifies the argument with the example of farmers following practices to revive the quality of Wisconsin’s topsoil till they received incentives for a period of five years only. Leopold’s Land ethic doesn’t depend on utilitarian calculaitons. He provides that it is difficult to attach economic value to every species or biotic communities, and the system of conservation cannot be based solely on economic interest, rather it might have greater intangible values for well being of the entire ecosystem. In addition, he furthers the idea of complexities of evolution’s pyramid of life, where land “is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. Food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil” (Leopold, A. 1949. Pg.117). The human actions and inventions of transportation, industries in the complex chain have had major consequences in the entire food chain, always affecting the ecosystem to different intensities sometimes readjust able, sometimes not. He concludes to the notion of “the less violent the manmade changes, the greater the probability of successful readjustment in the pyramid” (Leopold, A. 1949. Pg.119). Furthermore, Leopold asserts that land ethic is an as much of an emotional process as it is intellectual. "It is inconceivable that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land and a high regard for its value"(Leopold, A. 1949. Pg.120). Leopold expressed the core of those values as follows: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise"(Hinchman, P.L. 1995).

In his book, Leopold communicates the ultimate mysteriousness of the natural world where he states “its time and space are not ours; its inhabitants experience their world in ways quite different than we do ours” (Hinchman, P.L. 1995). Through the overall picture of the book, he draws a need of ethical obligation towards land and its extensions in the ecosystem where man is just a “biotic citizen”. With his very tone he conveyed his trust in their ability to do so, and to act on what they read, learned,

and enjoyed. This was for Leopold the solid foundation upon which conservation had to be built. In this unassuming and idiosyncratic book of essays, Leopold showed that we may move mountains by allowing the mountains -and the skies, the oceans, the freshwaters, the marshes, the forests, the prairies, the deserts, and all the lives, human and otherwise, they contain- to move us (Meine, D.C. 1998).

the effect of Aldo Leopold’s philosophy

Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac is considered as one of the most significant source for every conservationist. The Land ethic proposed not only the value of land to enhance human awareness and appreciation but to improve the changes of achieving “harmony with land”- Leopold’s definition of conservation (Meine, D.C. 1998). Similarly, Leopold’s Land ethic is akin to a new consciousness, where it acknowledges the inevitability of economic growth, but the need of sustainable growth without any abrupt interventions.

Teresa L. S (1993) explains the use of the book in biology, history, philosophy, political science and sociology classes at different education levels. The seminal book is considered to be a wonderful tool for any courses concerning environment, social problems, movements.

Leopold's land ethic called for changes in society's attitudes towards the land at a fundamental level, with important consequences for an ecological economics.

Since Leopold articulated several novel concepts—land health, land ethics, land esthetics, and ecological economics, Lin, F.Q. (2014) points out Leopold’s ecological economics, in its ideal form, would not be a strict replacement of orthodox economics but would have occupied a different place in society's transformed consciousness. He argues that the concept of an “ecological economics” possesses immense potential

in realigning human society with the ecological functioning of the biophysical environment. However, given its radically different premises (such as Leopold's land-as-community)


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