Land Ethics

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Land Ethic refers to the idea of treating the environment and all its inhabitants with respect just like any human community. The idea of land ethic was first used by the American environmentalist Aldo Leopold. Land ethics are an interesting set of morals that pushes for people to open up on their sense of community and allow all the other aspects of the land into this new form of community. As world history progressed, more and more people began developing a sense of land ethic and the relationship between humans and the environment as had plenty of improvements throughout the years due to increased concern for the environment and those that live in it.

Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic

In the essay written by Leopold titled "The Land Ethic" Leopold makes the argument that the extension of ethics is simply a step in the process of ecological evolution[1]. Leopold believed that an individual's ethics made them cooperate with other people of the community, and the idea of land ethics is simply to expand the boundaries of said community to allow all other aspects of the land. He describes people as a conqueror of sorts without the influence of land ethics, and with land ethics people are reduced from a conqueror to an average member of the community, stating that it "...implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community..."[2]

Plaque with Leopold quote
Plaque with one of Aldo Leopold's famous quotes about land ethics. . Source: Wisconsin Historical Society

Land Ethic Throughout the World

Throughout the world there has been countless improvements made on the relationship between people and the land. The Kingdom of Bhutan is an example of a nation having a sense of land ethic. In the constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, there is a required minimum of 60% percent of Bhutan's total land is to be protected and maintained forests, saying that "The Government itself pledges to protect, conserve and improve the pristine environment and safeguard the biodiversity of the country..."[3]. In America, the creation of the Wilderness Act in 1964, was a huge victory in terms of land ethic. The act created the legal definition of wilderness and provided a protector of sorts for said wilderness in the form of the National Wilderness Preservation System, or NWPS for short. When the act was passed it created around 9.1 million acres of forests designated as wilderness, today, that total number is roughly around 104.9 million acres of land in 44 states.

Land Ethic in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin there are many examples of people having a sense of land ethics. The Fox River in Wisconsin is a river that has a history of heavy pollution. Due to all the paper industry factories that line the river pumping all sorts of dangerous chemicals, this not only negatively effected the wildlife in the water, but also the residents of the city of Appleton that got their drinking water from the Fox River, accumulating to around a million gallons a day(River of Paper pg 48). Eventually, due to the increased amounts of recreational activity that was taking place in the river, residents began to protest the paper industry for the damage caused to the river. The Fox River isn't the only example of land ethic in Wisconsin. The Ojibwa tribe is a Native American tribe that originated in the Midwestern United States that has a strong connection to the land and its inhabitants. Sharon Day, an Ojibwa tribe member, has been actively trying to bring people together with the environment through the use of water walks, which Day uses to "...pray for the water and to raise public awareness about the pollution affecting our waters"(Day, Walking the River).

The Land

The land is how Aldo Leopold refers to the all the collective aspects of the environment and groups all those aspects into a sort of community. Within this community includes soils, waters, plants and animals basically expanding the boundaries of already existing communities of people. A common thought when thinking about land is soil, but it is more than that, land "...is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals in a process described as the land pyramid."[4]

References

  1. "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 671.
  2. "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 673.
  3. "ISIS/WWW System." ISIS/WWW System. Accessed April 28, 2016. http://faolex.fao.org/cgi-bin/faolex.exe?rec_id=117663
  4. "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 682
  • "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 671
  • "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 673.
  • "Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents." Aldo Leopold: Writings: A Sand County Almanac , Correspondence and Drafts: Contents. Accessed April 28, 2016. doi:pg. 682
  • American Earth: Evniornmental Writing Since Thoreau, Bill McKibben, (Literary Classics of United States, New York, 2008)
  • http://www.aldoleopold.org/AldoLeopold/landethic.shtml
  • "ISIS/WWW System." ISIS/WWW System. Accessed April 28, 2016. http://faolex.fao.org/cgi-bin/faolex.exe?rec_id=117663.
  • Wisconsin Historical Society (pic)

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