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The Land Ethic: Forester Aldo Leopold's Philosophy

Aldo Leopold's Forestry Influence

By Steve Nix
The term "land ethic" was coined y a !orester named Aldo Leopold" Leopold was a scientist# poet# and philosopher"
$is comination o! talents and a small oo% called A Sand County Almanac propelled a partic&lar ethic !orward to
e adopted y many conservationists and ecolo'ists o! today"
(! yo& di' deep eno&'h )di''in' is philosophy* it is di!!ic&lt to deny that we mana'e !orests !rom partic&lar
perspectives# many o! which are at odds with other 'ro&ps and individ&als in o&r society" There are even di!!erent
perspectives within the !orestry pro!ession" This was tr&e as Aldo Leopold chiseled o&t his !amo&s last piece in the
last "The +pshot" section o! the Almanac " This piece# called "The Land Ethic"# s%etched o&t in road stro%es the
moral implications o! ecolo'y"
,hat was &p to then a &tilitarianist view that !orest mana'ement sho&ld e "!or the etter 'ood o! h&manity"#
Leopold s&''ested a chan'e to a "iotic conservation" view" Says Leopold# "+ntold species# oth lar'e and small#
may provide !&t&re so&rces o! !ood and medicines" (! we !&lly &nderstood the &se!&lness o! nat&re# then as 'ood
&tilitarians we sho&ld e ale to preserve it witho&t dist&rin' o&r venerale elie!s ao&t o&r &ni-&eness and
s&periority as h&man ein's""
The !&ndamental tenets o! Leopold's "Land Ethic" are these:
. "Land" is a system o! interdependent parts which sho&ld e re'arded as a "comm&nity" and not a "commodity""
Today's scientists wo&ld call that "land" the ecosystem"
. Homo Sapiens is a memer# not the master# o! the land comm&nity" This concept is still very hard to swallow y
some conservative conservationists"
."The Whole informs the part" which means we can only &nderstand o&r place in nat&re y !irst &nderstandin'
the place o! all creat&res that compose the ",hole""
./an's d&ty is to preserve the inte'rity# staility# and ea&ty o! the "biotic community""
Some have insisted that the Almanac is not a scienti!ic wor% . that it is oversimpli!ication" Leopold himsel! mi'ht
a'ree )altho&'h he was a !o&nder o! the science o! wildli!e mana'ement# a&thor o! n&mero&s scienti!ic oo%s and
over 011 technical papers*"
(n writin' the Almanac # Leopold simply said "2ear 3eader: share with me# i! yo& will# my experiences# then my
tho&'ht# and i! yo& choose to !ollow# then my vision" And i! yo& see% !o&ndations and proo!# there are liraries and
laoratories at yo&r disposal" /oreover# i! yo& so choose# yo& mi'ht even set yo&r career &pon s&ch a co&rse" B&t
!irst# 4&st try this vision"" No more# no less"