Self and social interests put humans in competition with natural land processes as we use our environments for health and security.
Those who benefit from land do not always make peace with it.
Aldo Leopold, the “father of wildlife management,” died fighting a land fire with neighbors, the year before I was born. He left many ideas that I share, perhaps because he influenced the professional thinkers who taught me and now I offer a graduate course about his philosophies and actions!
Before knowing about Leopold, I won an essay contest in high school. My thesis was similar to his quote “There are two things that interest me: the relation of people to each other, and the relation of people to land.” My prize was the first summer job with wildlife research, sealing my life interests, work with land and education, and helping people.
Do yourself a favor and read A Sand County Almanac and Leopold’s other books. Google his quotes, apply his teachings by taking my online course, or just enjoy a civil and peaceful way to live with land and people. Quotes that follow are from Leopold. Note: His use of the masculine for general reference was typical of writing in his time.
- “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… 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.”
- “Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
- “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”
- “If the land mechanism as a whole is good then every part is good, whether we understand it or not…To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”
- “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.”
Del Benson is a Professor and wildlife specialist for Extension at Colorado State University. His work is with wildlife and recreation enterprises on private land, conservation education, hunter attitudes and behavior, public input to resource management decision making and campus environmental management. He had conducted research on land management for wildlife and recreation in Colorado, Morocco and Honduras. His 1999 book Wildlife Stewardship and Recreation on Private Lands received The Wildlife Award for Conservation Education. Another book of his, Living with Nature and Wildlife: Doing Our Part, is a primer for students and teachers to learn, in simple terms, how the environment works and how people can do their part to manage it.