Need for a Land Ethic: The Aldo Leopold Legacy

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“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”- Aldo Leopold

Published in 1949 as the finale to his book “A Sand County Almanac”, Leopold’s “land ethic” defined a new relationship between people and nature and set the stage for the modern conservation movement.

Leopold understood that ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. One of his philosophical achievements was the idea that this ‘community’ should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, weather, plants, and animals, “or collectively: the land.”

“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics”, he said.  This recognition, according to Leopold, implies individuals play an important role in protecting and preserving the health of this expanded definition of a community.

“A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land”, Leopold said. Central to Leopold’s philosophy is the assertion to “quit thinking about decent land use as solely an economic problem.” While recognizing the influence economics have on decisions, Leopold understood that ultimately, our economic well being could not be separated from the well being of our environment. Therefore, he believed it was critical that people have a close personal connection to the land.

“We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in”, he said.

Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” has prompted generations of people to take better notice – and care – of the natural environment. Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948)  was the first research director at the University of Wisconsin Madison Arboretum and was closely involved in its design.

Madison Reads Leopold begins at 9:30 am at the Arboretum this Saturday, March 7, 2015 and is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available in the visitor center lobby. Brown-bagging is permitted but food must remain in the Visitor Center.

Madison Reads Leopold is a community celebration organized for to celebrate the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold and is sponsored by the Aldo Leopold Foundation.

The name “Aldo Leopold Weekend” has its roots in Wisconsin, where it is held annually the first full weekend of March has that official designation and Wisconsin communities across the state coordinate events that all happen at the same time. Leopold-themed events have spread far beyond the borders of Wisconsin since the event’s inception in 2000, and are now celebrated across the nation in various ways and at various times throughout the year!  Events planned for the Madison celebration include a showing of the Green Fire film., an excellent documentary on the history of the environmental movement in the United States. At the Madison UW Arboretum  there will also be readings from “A Sand County Almanac”, Leopold bench building workshops, round table discussions followed by hikes through the Arboretum itself.  In short, lots of great things! The event in Madison is scheduled to go to 4 PM Saturday.

Find an event near you!

About Mike Neuman

Identical twin; Long-time advocate of protection of our environment; Married; Father to three sons; Grandfather to one granddaughter; Born and raised in Wisconsin; Graduate of University of Wisconsin; post graduate degrees in agricultural economics and Water Resources Management fro UWMadison; Former School Crossing Guard for City of Madison; Bike to Work for 31 years with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Retired from DNR in 2007; Biked to school crossing guard site 2 X daily for 7 years retiring in 2019; in addition to being an advocate of safeguarding our environment, I am also an advocate for humane treatment of animal, children, and people in need of financial resource for humane living. I am presently a Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Madison, Wisconsin. I oppose all long (>500 miles) distance travel (via fossil fuel burning) for nonessential purposes and all ownership of more than one home. I am opposed to militarism in any form particularly for the purpose of monetary gain. I am a Strong believer in people everywhere having the right to speak their minds openly, without any fear of reprisal, regarding any concerns; especially against those in authority who are not acting for the public good?in a timely fashion and in all countries of the world not just the U S.. My identical twin, Pat, died in June 2009. He was fired from his job with the National Weather Service despite having a long and successful career as a flood forecaster with the Kansas City National Weather Service. He took a new position in the Midwest Regional Office in Minneapolis. Unfortunately, Pat’s work for the NWS went sour after he began to see the evidence for concern about rising global temperatures shortly after relocating to Minneapolis, and how they appeared to effect of flooding on the Red River that flows out of Canada before entering the U.S. in North Dakota. . Pat and I conversed on a regular basis with other scientists on the Yahoo Group named “Climate Concern “ and by personal email. The NWS denied his recommendation to give his public presentation o n his research at the “Minneapolis Mall of America” in February 2000, which deeply affected h,im. I will h He strongly believed the information ought be shared with the public to which I concurred. That was the beginning of the vendetta against my brother, Patrick J. Neuman, for speaking strongly of the obligations the federal government was responsible for accurately informing the citizenry. A way great similar response to my raising the issue of too many greenhouse gases being emitted by drivers of vehicles on Wisconsin highway system, my immediate supervisors directed: “that neither global warming, climate change nor the long term impacts upon the natural resources of Wisconsin from expansion of the state highway system were to be any part of my job requirements, and that I must not communicate, nor in a memorandum to all the bureau, shall any person who works in the same bureau I do communicate with me, neither verbally on the phone, by email.

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