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Alyssa Green

Conservation Biology, BIOL1120


The Land Ethic Reflection Paper
Part I- Summary
Aldo Leopolds The Land Ethic is the conclusion in his book A Sand County Almanac.
In Leopolds article The Land Ethic he focuses on ecological evolution and ethics, including
the relationships between individual to individual, individual to community, and individual to the
environment. Leopold states The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to
include soil, water, plants, and animals or collectively: the land This is shown in how Leopold
applies human ethics to the land. He believes that ethics toward the land must be formed just like
they were formed between people as people form a community so does 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. Leopold believes that community includes plants,
animals, essentially biota as a whole. This idea develops land as more than only something of
economic value similar to how a human has become more than a piece of property from
Odysseys time. Currently Leopold shows humans as conquerors of their environment; the
environment is solely for their use. This is a flaw as humans do not know what makes the
community work even with our vast discoverys we still know very little of the phenomena of the
environment.
As humans currently have very little connection with their environment, Leopold
encourages humans to develop a close relation to the land like a sibling as We can be ethical
only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in. As
human beings we need to have faith in the environment and respect it, allowing it develop and

assist the pyramid of life to develop sustainably. Leopold suggest that we change our education
system to help the pyramid of life. He suggests as individuals we become aware of the pyramid
and how greatly little things affect it thus taking into the account the domino effect. Leopold
suggest with these ethics, we could restore our environment to a more glorious and natural state.
Part II- Questions
1. How would you characterize your own conservation philosophy? How did you come to hold
these beliefs?
Conservation philosophy to me is a mix of ethics and principals. I believe in the idea that
land is existent for a reason but I see the reason is to be part of a sustainable life pyramid.
That is why I believe humans have taken advantage of nature and are not learning to live
with nature. I believe that nature does supply man with many resources but I also think that
man needs to give back to nature. Farming exemplifies this, in order for the farmer to
continue to gather good crop he must take care of the soil and vice versa. I grew up with the
saying what you put in is what you get out; since a young age I learned that if I lived with
nature and gave back to it I would get out a lot more. It seems silly to say this but my
familys garden always produces better crops after it has been raked and fertilized. I hold
these beliefs because I have grown up with them and have an understanding of how one
small change can cause a landslide. Everything has purpose in life and deserves to live the
best that it can.
2.

Consider this statement: A land ethic changes the role of humans from conqueror of the
land community to plain members and citizens of it. It implies respect for his fellowmembers, and also respect for the community as such. How would you apply this ethic in
practice?

I would apply this ethic as respect everything. It can be applied to humans and the land in the
form treat the land like you wish to be treated. In other words if you are kind and
knowledgeable about the lands needs and help provide them it will provide the same back to
you in a different form.
3.

Leopold wrote in the 1940s, The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing
privileges but not obligations. What would you say is our land-relation today?
Our land-relation today has changed but not on a large scale. One of the changes society has
made is in the education department; they now offer classes on topics of land and its
conservation. The public is still not widely aware of the decline in the land and assumes since
we have become more knowledgeable about it we have fixed it which is not true. This is
shown on Arbor Day, very few people celebrate it or take the time to make a difference; if we
focused on even one day a year we could create a much greater awareness of our land and its
importance. I believe that we still have a long way to go in accepting that we have
obligations to the land but society has started at the tip of the iceberg and will through time
and education develop better conservation habits to protect the biotic and abiotic aspects of
the community.

4.

Leopold says the land ethic is extending a communitys sensibilities to all members of the
community, nonhuman as well as human. What would that mean in your life or community?
I believe that communities are fairly good at respecting humans and even most animal
relationships but respecting the soil, trees, and gardens is harder. I think that extending the
sensibilities would greatly improve upon our natural state but as I live in the suburbs the
community would have to agree upon preserving nature and assessing the impact that
humans have on it. I think that this would require turning away from profit value and towards

intrinsic values which I have a hard time believing a whole community could do. There will
always be people more concerned about the profit. As an individual even embracing a small
portion of this will do you and the land a great deal; it will slowly improve our relationship
with the whole community to make it a better place.
5.

Do you agree with this passage from the Land Ethic: 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. Was Leopold suggesting that the integrity of the biotic community supersedes
the concerns for its individual members? What are the implications of this concept for you?
I agree with this concept; I believe that the integrity of the biotic community greatly
supersedes the concerns of individual members. One example is keystone species if a
different species, a raccoon, was killing them off it would be a greater good to protect the
keystone species, a gopher tortoise, and thus the biotic community rather than to protect the
individual. Protecting the keystone species will protect many more organisms form extinction
than just its self where the predator only protects its self from extinction. In our community
one of the steps that could help protect the biotic community but not necessarily us as
individuals is to become vegetarian because humans would take a step down the food ladder
and thus free up more energy for higher level predators, so more predators could survive.
This helps to preserve different populations while forces humans to be aware of their impact
on society and community.

6.

In the Land Ethic, Leopold said, It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relationship


[with land] can exist without love, respect, admiration, and a high regard for its value.
Which is more motivating for you: beauty (aesthetics) or duty (ethics)?

Ethics are more important to me because I feel like I have some control over the outcome.
Ethics can develop love, respect, admiration, and high regard for value aesthetics dont.
Ethics tell you if I do this then there will be a positive or negative outcome, aesthetics dont
tie an individual into doing something about an endangered plant or species just because it is
pretty.
7.

In thinking about your land ethic, does it emanate primarily from self-interest, or from
a true interest in non-human elements?
I think that my land ethic is a mix of both. I know that many of the things I do are in selfinterest, and I wouldnt give these things up such as new buildings and convenience stores. I
like the ability to buy items cheaper even though I know that the farmers arent necessarily
doing what is best for the land. I also have a true interest in non-human elements though I do
believe that we need to give back what we take from the land; that is why I treat my
environment with respect. I can do my part in volunteering to restore the community and
recycling to try and lessen the amount of harm to the land.

Part III- Reflection


I found reading The Land Ethic to be very useful as it broadened my horizons on
ecology and ethics and how they are applicable to everything. The reading did change my
opinion toward ecology as it provided me with a larger picture of what is going on in the
community and how everyday people interpret the word community. I feel that after reading this
I will become less focused on self-interest and more on true interest in non-human elements. I
believe that everyone could benefit from reading The Land Ethic it helps to open a new
perspective on community encompassing everything. It also shows how everyday people lack in
their ability to make a difference because of their limited knowledge and understanding, as well

as understanding that no one can know everything about ecosystems. The Land Ethic also
shows how everyday people can make a difference in their ecosystem in small ways to assist in
promoting ecology and developing land ethics.