The Needed Odyssey

and Evolution of
Human Ecological Ethics

Nicholas Belnap
Biology 1120
Jessica Berryman

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As we dive into human history many things have changed over the centuries. Even in the

last hundred years, as a human race we have made great strides in so many areas I could not list

them all. One of the most important is the ethics we live by throughout our lives. Aldo Leopold

brings this to light in his paper The Land Ethic, where he gives the example of Odysseus from

the Odyssey and the strides we have made in our ethics since that time.

However Mr. Leopold believes that we still need chances in our ethics. So that our ethical

circle does not just include our communities but extend to “soils, water, plants, and animals, or

collectively: the land.” By this we would have a greater respect for the land. We would treat it

with a form of respect and care. We would not just see it as a property, but a responsibility.

This would lead us to having like rules and laws that affect how we interact with the land.

Just like we have these laws one how we interact with each other. We also shows that we,

ourselves cannot have the obligation to set these rules. Those who are taught and are educated

must make these rules. He gives the example of how the famers were giving the chance to set the

rules, and they failed.

Ado Leopold was a very qualified individual to make these points due to the fact that he

is an: author, philosopher, scientist, ecologist, forester, conservationist, and environmentalist.

Even though he made these points in the early 1900, they still remain true and are studied today.

Clearly he was a man before his time.

If the people of his time could have heeded his words earlier on then the events of the

1930’s Dust Bowl might not have happened. Where mixed with a severe drought and a failure to

apply dryland farming methods. Lead to wind erosion and serious damage to the land. To the

point families and farmer had to abandon the area. This ended up scaring the area for decades


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This was the respect and education for the land that Mr. Leopold spoke of. These farmers

in the area either did not know about dry farming methods or did not care. They did not have

someone who was educated on the land and knowledgeable to regulate them or teach them. This

ended with them not only losing everything, but causing serious damage to the land.

As for my personal conservation philosophy there are several things that have led to its

development. First and for most I grew up in a farming community in Idaho. This taught me

early on that we as a people are nothing without the land, thus we must respect it or else we will

lose it.

Next as I grew and my love for the land grew and the Boy Scouts of America only

increased that. The ethic that they taught me was to “leave no trace.” By this they meant that you

can love the land, camp, travel, explore, and see the world but you did not have to leave a trail of

damage behind you. You should minimize you “human impact” on the area you visit.

This ethic taught me that a it is not just respect for the land , but for the people that will

follow you. Now that I think about this I believe this would be in part what Mr. Leopold spoke of

when he said to include the land into our ethical circle. That is the reason you do it for both,

because you recognize the importance of both.

So when I heard “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 fellow-members, and

also respect for the community as such.” It made me realize that the ethic I learned in my youth

was still important; it just needed to be expanded on. We as a people need to recognize our

impact on the world and each ecosystem. As a people we want to grow and expand, but at what


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We must set a high bar for ourselves when we look at expanding. We must not conquer,

but coexist with it. We must not push nature out of the way, but build and live around and in it.

We must look to our cities and where ever able we must make room for nature. We must strive to

not make a concrete and metal world. We would only be hurting ourselves in the future.

This leads into what Mr. Leopold meat when he said “The land-relation is still strictly

economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.” This means we treat the land as an item or

something you own, but have little or no responsibility to it. Though we have improved greatly

from when he said this in the early 1900’s. We have educated our farmers through agencies

meant to monitoring the land and teach individuals, as well as doing research and studies on how

to protect the land in the future. We still treat it as an item not an obligation. Everywhere we look

we see a disregard for the land.

By extending communities sensibilities from not just human but to the land and non-

humans we can greatly improve our own ecosystems. For instant is a community plants trees in

available areas and include natural ponds and creeks. It will allow the local wild life to thrive and

if they do we do. It will be a mutually beneficial relationship.

For instant if we look at the large cities in China they are riddled with problems. They

have created a concrete and steel world around them and now they are paying the price. The

pollution in these cities is becoming so bad that it is unhealthy to the people living there. One

thing that they have look at to decrease the pollution is high rise buildings that are purely

gardens, and including vegetation on the side of other builds as well. This would help decrease

the amount of carbon dioxide and release clean air into the city. This is just one of the benefits of

having plants and other wild life inside communities.

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This is why I agree with Mr. Leopold when he said “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.” China was a clear example of how it goes wrong when we do not preserve the biotic

community. Only a drastic change in standards and ethics will help at this point. They must learn

to live with nature not cut it out.

In our day and age kids and young adults are spending more and more time inside and

less experiencing nature. I believe that immersing oneself in the nature with cause the individual

to develop a love for the land and its beauty. Once the love and recognition of the beauty then we

can develop the sense of duty. With this foundation of love, the effects that will take hold later

on with duty will be greater, because if you love something it will make you work harder to

protect it.

As of now I am somewhat ashamed to say that my individual land ethic, though has

elements of interest in non-human, it sadly does have in large parts of self-interest. There is

always more I could to better enhance the non-human community around me.

Thanks to reading The Land Ethic it helped me realize my own role in the community

and the responsibilities that I have. It helped me to realize not just the impact I have in our on the

world around me, but what human’s impact is over all.

I feel that as part of this Earth biosphere and a higher level of intelligence that we have a

responsibility protect and nurture the ecosystems that we live around. Is our obligation that

through our action that we do not force and animals into extinction. I believe the is in part what

Mr. Leopold was meaning when he said that we should expand out ethical circle to those things

such as the land and the non-humans around us.

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As for our obligation to the land, it is our responsibility to not scar it. Likewise educate

ourselves to the requirements the land needs to be useable not just for ourselves, but future

generations. Only through education and self-discipline can we ensure a strong and healthy

world for those who will follow in our footsteps.

I am thankful for the opportunity to read The Land Ethics and the information that it has

brought to light for me. It was very thought inspiring and caused me to look inside of myself to

see what I can do to improve the community around me.

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