Sand County Sunday (oops!)

A single silence hangs from horizon to horizon. (Leopold 95)

I fell asleep on the couch last night before getting around to Sand County Saturdays, so Sand County Sunday it is!  This week is the screening of the film that launched my revisit of Aldo Leopold's classic, so I'll look forward to wrapping up the book and posting on the film next weekend.  This weekend, however, I'm just dwelling on the beautiful phrasings (like the sentence under the photo at top) and keen observations this book is so full of.

Leopold, for those that don't know anything about him, is considered one of the first great conservationists in America.  He was an expert on wildlife management and was one of the founders of the Wilderness Society.  His book, A Sand County Almanac, wasn't published until after his untimely death in 1948 (he was fighting a grass fire on a neighbor's property), but it has left a tremendous legacy, especially regarding an ethical view of land.

He writes:
There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it.  Land, like Odysseus' slave-girls, is still property.  The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations. ... All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts.  His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate. ...The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. ... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. (203-204)
 And remembering he is writing in the 40s, I laugh to consider what he would think now:
Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets.  He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow.  Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a 'scenic' area, he is bored stiff.  If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well.  Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals.  In short, land is something he has 'outgrown.' (223-224)
And yes, I write this post on a laptop, sitting on my couch with artificial heat warming the room and a synthetic blanket over my legs.  I am in part the true modern he describes, but I do so hope I will never outgrow the wonder of the woods or my pleasure in working the soil or my fascination with the creatures that populate both.

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