Aldo Leopold died of a heart attack while battling a fire on a neighbour’s property on April 21, 1948. He is one of those literary figures better known and much more influential in America than on this side of the Atlantic – like Henry Adams, or to a certain degree Emerson or Thoreau. I first came across him when reading about solastalgia , which lead me to A Sand County Almanac and the concept of the Land Ethic:
“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”
“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.
I have remarked before on some of the aspects of Leopold’s work which might strike one as dated – for instance his unself-conscious engagement in hunting, not seen as implacably opposed to conservation as it often is now (in Britain especially) . But by and large, Leopold’s work is all too relevant. Indeed, as the disappearance of species accelerates rather than slows down in our supposedly green-conscious age, the rediscovery of the Land Ethic looms larger than ever as an imperative rather than a luxury.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/8669977″>Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user2926562″>Jeannine Richards</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>