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Haley Nate | BIO1120 |

Making Land Ethics


The Land Ethic, an essay on Conservation ethics begins by

referencing the cultural ethics from the time period of Odysseus. In
that day and age, slaves were treated as property. The point Leopold is
coming to is that ethics obviously change throughout time which he
further explains in The Ethical Sequence.
From here Leopold introduces his main objective of holding man
responsible for maintaining the land with motivation beyond personal
gain. For conservation to be truly achieved our values must be altered
to support the ethics. One way he proposes to do this is to make
conservation more applicable and desirable to the lives of others.
Humans being members and citizens within a community we have a
civil duty to respect our fellow-members and the community as a
whole. Without a mutual respect and understanding humans have no
reason to conserve unless it directly affects themselves. He sums this
up perfectly with the example of the Wisconsin farmers.
Ecological change takes time. Because instant gratification is not
promised, the average working human is not as inclined to alter his
current efforts to help a cause he may not experience in his lifetime.
Because of the human desire for immediate results, violent or
aggressive solutions have arisen thus making the land pyramid wider
instead of taller. Leopold mentions multiple times how we need to
break the cycle of humans wearing the conquer-role throughout


history and inflict less violent manmade changes. He proposes that

proper education and incentive are tools that can be used to spread
conservation ethic, lessen violent manmade changes and increase
productive results.
After reading The Land Ethic, I feel my own conservation ethic
has been honed in a more scientific direction. Beforehand my ethic
could have easily been compared to John Muir. As a child my
grandfather introduced me to really see nature; trees living before our
city was erected, instincts helping all kinds of animals adapt as well as
survive and that every living thing serves a purpose. Honestly, I will
never give up this spiritual ethic. Leopold states that if we truly loved
the land than it would not be in need of conservation. Knowing this
information, I plan to learn more and act on what Ive learned to
accomplish my goals for conservation.
In order to make an impact ethically, people have to begin by
understanding and respecting what we currently have. To respect what
we currently have, people need to learn and understand what we have
and how it impacts our daily lives. We are equal parts in the cycle of
life or Leopolds land pyramid. As a community, we need to hold our
own weight by supporting the life systems that support us. Learning to
replenish what we take so we do not deplete our resources. Thus,
leaving future generations with resources to live on.


Humans having the tendency to feel entitled to what they

already own. More so now than when Leopold wrote this essay in the
1940s. Thankfully, people do have the privilege of learning more and
contributing their efforts for the betterment of our communities big
and small. Unfortunately, nobody is obligated to change their ethic
towards the land and nothing will change unless humans have an
incentive to do so. The example of Missouri farmers in the 1930s
Leopold uses is spot on. A more recent example one could use is the
small mulita in Oregon; demanding ownership of land that is not theirs.
As a community we must work together to end ignorance and
spread knowledge about our roles in the ecosystem. If ethics can
change from treating fellow humans as property like Odysseus, there is
surely a way to change our ethics towards our planet and all life on it.
How can we change the ethics of today? Consistently speaking up and
supporting the conservation ethic is a start. With solid evidence to
support conservation claims we can use hard facts to teach others
about the importance of changing our ethic for the better.
In order to make an omelet, you have to break some eggs.
Leopold knows that in order for things to change, humans will have to
make significant sacrifices. Living with the ethics we have now an
immediate change could spell death for people who do not have vital
resources readily available. This could be catastrophic economically


and some could say goes against the land ethic which recognizes that
an ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom or action in the
struggle for existence. In other words, natural selection would have to
be reintroduced into humanity.
To induce an ethic that can be considered provocative, there
has to be a deep admiration and understanding for what could be
gained by humanity in the future near and far. Continuing the ethic is
critical for the survival of all life, today and for future generations. To
apply a drastic life changing ethic like this will require devotion, which
always seems to grow from a deep love and admiration for what we
have. Having grown up with a mutual love and appreciation for wildlife
and nature impacts the way I feel about what happens to the planet
around me. For others who grew up without similar influences, they
would need to have personal incentive to change their ethic, as it does
not affect them personally.
All humans are living to better their own lives. No matter what it
is, they receive some sort of personal benefit from any task they
knowingly complete. If the adoration for non-human elements is not
there initially any involvement is purely of self-interest. Lucky for me,
gaining knowledge of non-human lifeforms is part of my own selfinterest. Because of my self-interest for conservation I can share what I
know with others in the hopes of inspiring them to join the cause.


Before reading The Land Ethic I was unsure of Aldo Leopolds

stance on his ethical views. I felt them to be very extreme when I first
read about him in our textbook. Immediately after reading the first
page of The Land Ethic, my thoughts have been altered and his views
were clarified for me.
His writing is extremely organized, informative and clear. Nothing
like the average textbook. I enjoyed his detailed examples of history
and ecology being related, even though his essay is in and of itself a
part of history. It reminds me of my favorite novel by Ray Bradbury,
Fahrenheit 451. The essay and book were both written within just a few
years of each other yet, the messages they convey are warnings (and
frighteningly accurate predictions) of the future.
The fact that Leopolds descriptions written in his time are still
applicable today, speaks volumes about his passion for his work and
his ability to communicate it clearly to others. On top of educating you
about his conservation ethic he is successful (for me) in making you
understand the difference between love for beauty and love for
functionality. I often found myself questioning, if I just love the idea of
nature. Do I really appreciate and respect it as I should? If I am to be a
part of the solution, what exactly am I doing to contribute? Leopold
made me think, without knowing it.