A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Regular readers have been aware of my recent revisit to Aldo Leopold's classic text on conservation A Sand County Almanac.  My initial post exposed my fangirl status, and my Sand County Saturdays highlighted some of the best bits from my reading. 

I reread because our Awake and Engage(d) Documentary Film Series was screening the new film on Leopold and his life's work: Greenfire.  Local storyteller Jim Pfitzer hosted the screening and did a beautiful and thoughtful recitation of Leopold's famous essay "Thinking Like a Mountain."

This gorgeous essay is where the title of the film originates.  In it, Leopold is reflecting on a life in and of nature, and he does something terribly uncommon in today's society: he admits he was wrong.  Early in his life, he had been a proponent of exterminating big game predators.  His support of this act came from his love of hunting and his belief that "because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise" (130).  As a result, wolves and other large animals were hunted to near-extinction.  In revising his view on the subject, he recounts an instance many years before when he had killed an old wolf and watched her die, watched as "a fierce green fire [died] in her eyes" (130).  Though he did not write about the experience at the time, it clearly took hold in his life and became a touchstone event in his understanding of wildness and the importance of symbiosis in the environment.

The last section of A Sand County Almanac is titled "The Upshot," and in it, Leopold compiles and asserts his most important theses regarding the land ethic, wildlife, and wilderness.  Some of it is repetitive, but for the most part it is a clearly argued demand for little more than a sense of appropriate balance in the world.  To consider humanity merely one of the myriad species inhabiting this place and to see ourselves as the ones most capable of its destruction would mean an unheard of transformation in global health.  I mean that in both possible interpretations: the health of the globe and the health of all those on the globe.  To refuse to seek that balance will mean continued examples of exploitation, destruction, and short-sighted decisions based on economic rather than ecologic profit.  We are all but there now, and the awareness of that fact destroys me on a somewhat daily basis.

I am a political person, and I definitely have a short fuse (thankfully, I also have a short memory) on many of these issues.  Sitting in the same room with me while I read the newspaper is .... well, let's just say it's hard to sustain a real conversation because I'm also going to be hollering at whatever article or letter to the editor has got me going this time.  If you do not have a similar leaning, you might want to exeunt stage left because I'm about to talk politics.

Rick Santorum's latest attacks on President Obama's "phony" theology have got me in a twist.  And yes, I did intentionally use the Fox News version of this story, so no one can think I'm just beating a liberal drum.  My problem with Santorum is not only that I disagree with him on about a hundred different points.  My problem is that, as a Christian, I feel ridiculously misrepresented by his brand of Christianity.  Man isn't here to serve the earth?  What does the Genesis account of Creation say was first on God's priority list?  What about Genesis 2:15?  "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (NIV).  Santorum also said, "The Earth is not the objective.  Man is the objective."  The objective of what?  I would hope that as a Christian, he would say that glorifying God was the objective rather than glorifying man.

Perhaps you see this theological rant as a tangent.  I do not.  I see the view of "man as the objective" as the single biggest threat to a land ethic.  Leopold says we must strive for balance.  In doing so, we must try to think like a mountain, to recognize the interconnectedness of it all, and for the Christian, to see God's work in that interconnectedness and to honor it.

No comments:

Post a Comment