I’ve long believed (as have so many others) that Aldo Leopold was a man that we all should look up to because of his deep belief in what true conservation is all about. He believed in wise use of the land and a call for what he deemed a “land ethic” that would be used to sustain the land over the long term through a deeper understanding of the natural world around us. He was an ardent hunter and outdoorsman but in a different sense than many of us consider someone who is an “outdoorsman”. His version was one of learning our place amongst all living things and understanding that all things living (not just GAME animals) have a right (and a reason) to live on our planet.
I recently finished a book by Curt Meine and Richard Knight entitled “The Essential Aldo Leopold” which contains a great compilation of many of his writings and thoughts over the course of his life. I highly recommend it and will do it minor justice in my attempt to simplify it’s entries in this, a series of blogs with Aldo’s thoughts.
If you ever read anything that Aldo wrote, read “A Sand County Almanac”—you won’t be disappointed. It’s perhaps the single reading that I can point to that led me down a path to better understanding the natural world—from my education to my career and overall belief in our place here on Earth.
“To see merely what a range is or has is to see nothing. To see WHY it is, how it became, and the direction and velocity of it’s changes—this is the great drama of the land.”
“We love (and make intelligent use of) what we have learned to understand.”
“A conservationist,” Leopold decided as he stood with axe in hand, “is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land.”
“I do not pretend to know what is moderation, or where the line is between legitimate and illegitimate gadgets. . . I use many factory made gadgets myself. Yet there must be some limit beyond which money-bought aids to sport destroy the cultural value of sport.”
“The hope of the future lies not in curbing the influence of human occupancy—it is already too late for that—but in creating a better undersanding of the extent of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.”
“In our attempts to save the bigger cogs and wheels we are still pretty naive. A little repentance just before a species goes over the brink is enough to make us feel virtuous. When the species is gone we have a good cry and repeat the performance.”
“The average American township has lost a score of plants and animals through indifference for every one it has lost through necessity.”
“.. . . There is value in any experience that reminds us of our dependency on the soil-plant-animal-man food chain, and of the fundamental organization of the biota. Civlization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relation with gadgets and middlemen that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.”
“Girdling the old oak to squeeze one last crop out of the barnyard has the same finality as burning the furniture to keep warm.”
Hard to believe this man lived and wrote much of these things nearly 80 years ago—as much of it is as true today as it was back then. Don’t get me wrong—in many ways Aldo would be proud of some of our conservation programs especially; however, as a larger society’s understanding of the natural world and its value we still struggle mightily. . .