When was the last time you saw a natural forest, prairie, marsh, or waterway untouched by humans? Instead, we see concrete, roads, buildings, and the infrastructure of our modern world. As a society, our idea of nature comes from parks intermediately dispersed throughout an urban jungle. Even in the most rural parts of the country, the landscape has been altered to fit human needs with fences, plowed fields, and forests cleared for more agricultural land. We have removed ourselves from nature and forgotten what it really is. The consequences that stem from the degradation of the environment are remote and foreign. As long as the repercussions are not happening in our backyard, they do not exist and are not factors in our decision-making. We don’t think about how an SUV’s emissions might influence the climate; instead, we worry about the amount we’ll pay at the pump. Aldo Leopold set out to change that mindset with his work on A Sand County Almanac more than fifty years ago. Leopold’s idea that we need to be good stewards of the environment has had a profound influence on the modern restoration movement, but it is an important component in the push for more sustainable economies, and wilderness preservation as well.A major obstacle to restoration efforts is changing people’s perception of how they should relate to nature. For the average person nature exists to satisfy their needs, whether that means using it for development, recreation, or simply ownership. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, humans have asserted a dominant role over nature, insisting that we can somehow control and change nature to suit our purposes. Rather than approaching nature with a sense of community of which humans are a part, we have long had an attitude of entitlement and ownership. Leopold proposes a major shift in paradigm by suggesting that we make an addition to our ethical framework that he calls a land ethic. He argues that we must enlarge the boundary of what we consider community to include the soil, water, plants and animals, in other words nature. Adopting the land ethic would change our human centered world-view to incorporate the natural world, thus shifting humans’ from the conquerors of the community to integral members of it.). Leopold condemns the economic valuation of nature, therefore denouncing the current practice of sustainable development. Placing an economic value on something determines our relationship to it. A land ethic is about being a member of the land, not being the owner, and learning how to appreciate the intrinsic value of nature. While the intrinsic value of nature is crucial to the land ethic, as a conservationist Leopold understands the need for humans to exploit nature for the necessities of life. As a result, Leopold strives to create a perfectly balanced system that can protect nature’s integrity, while simultaneously meeting societal demands for goods and services. In modern economies, the large and growing population, along with improvements in technology, has put a serious strain on that balance. These days short-term economic models and commodity based society give little thought to how crucial it is to maintain natural resources, or to the correlation between their economic decisions and environmental degradation. Let alone how we are throwing away the resources future generations will come to depend on. The current trend cannot continue forever because ecology and economics are intertwined. For economies to survive, countries need to exploit its natural resources, but economic collapse is a direct consequence of resource depletion. Our only solution is to become more sustainable. Leopold felt that by upholding the health of the land, its capacity of self-renewal and regeneration could also be maintained. In the land ethic Leopold describes a way to maintain a steady relationship between people and the environment. By getting back in touch with nature, humans will come to better understand how their actions affect the environment.For most of the population, the natural world is an abstract notion leading to gross neglect of the environment. Instead, Leopold advocates that the human population as a whole work together with an environmental ethic to become good stewards of nature. Becoming a good steward of the environment means that we have to take restoration more seriously, institute sustainable practices into our economy, and preserve wilderness for future generations. By incorporating a land ethic into our sense of values, we have the power to re-integrate ourselves with the natural world we have long forgotten. A quote from Leopold best describes the ultimate goal of any environmental conservation effort, “we end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the twentieth century: our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”I focused here on the latter part of the book, becuase I think it had the largest impact on me, but the rest of A Sand County Almanac is well worth the read. Leopold writes with beautifully simply but passionate prose. His description of cutting a tree down, recounting its long history is simply amazing.