Biology 1120 – Leopold’s “A Land Ethic” – Reflection

For my biology general education requirement at SLCC, I decided to go with conservation biology. I always wondered what exactly do we mean to “conserve”in regards to biology. Does this mean drive less, plant trees, use less water? It means so much to so many different people. This class has challenged my thinking, and already (6 weeks in) changed some of the ways I thought about ethical land use.

It’s not often that we stop and think about what it is we’re doing and how it relates to the biosphere that we live in. This assignment challenged my ideas of being an “Outdoorsy” type, and stretched my thinking beyond the confides of what I’ve felt comfortable with previously.

As much as physics challenges your way of thinking about how we stay attached to the earth, this paper challenged my way of thinking about why I should stick together with said earth.

Feel free to download the actual text I read in preparation for this assignment here. My complete paper in MLA format is available here.

A Land Ethic – Reflection

leopoldIt’s novel for me to actually consider the impact that we play on our surroundings. We mostly take for granted what our everyday lives consists of. Most of us born in the technological age, and just prior don’t really understand something as simple as where our food comes from. Nor do we seem to care the impacts that the current methodology in that  supply takes on our environment.

It seems that living, breathing, humans have become vain as a species. We are as a majority overweight, over entitled, over stimulated, and under educated. We expect more, and do less. Leopold certainly had a way with words. He conveys such compassion for conservation of our land I found it hard to dispute any of what he had to say.

The overall message was clear. We need to be understanding, and not self-centered in our dealings with our bio-diverse yet closely entwined world. We should be proactive, and support a greater good than that of our own individual benefit.

We need to consider not only the impact of our actions on our generations, but future generations. We should take care of what takes care of us. Instead we’re mostly a naive bunch only concerned with immediate reward. Instead we should concern ourselves with what may benefit us longer, and stronger. It stands to reason that what’s good for profit, isn’t generally good  for sustainability and growth that is critical to our survival as a species.

It’s not until we “partner” with the land that we really start to become mutually beneficial to one another, and this was a main point in Leopold’s dissertation. It’s not till we start thinking about land as a member of our team, instead of a tool we have that we can understand most of what Leopold wrote about.

I think my own conservation philosophy stems from my interests, and personal beliefs. I’ve always considered myself an “outdoorsy” type. By that I simply mean, I’d rather be outside, landethicpyramidthan in. Doing so, there are certain things I appreciate, and work to conserve. There are also other things that I understand are reckless, but take part in as a matter of entertainment, or personal interest. I often tell my children to “leave it better than we found it”, by which I mean let’s make sure we don’t have any visible impact on our surroundings when spending time outdoors. In fact, lets make sure that it’s a little more pristine than when we arrived. I’m a huge believer in Karma, and my interactions with nature are handled with that same kind of respect.

I do believe i employ the the idea of respect for land. I do already make sure that we take into consideration the impact of what we are doing. I often find myself thinking of trees as having feelings. I know this is silly, but it’s how I keep the idea that we are members and citizens of the land. Not that we own the land, but that we are able to enjoy the land. I’d also like to do my part to make sure my Grandkids enjoy the same land.

Our land relation is still quite economic. As is much of politics, land use and conservation being a small piece of that pie. We’re slowly moving in the right direction and starting to recognize and consider impact that we’ve caused. I think that most people would indicate that thy respect our land.Most are just under educated as to the impact our actions have. Our mentality is still infant, as is our age as a thriving species. I think with (a lot) more time we will be more sensitive to what is needed from us to be beneficial to our land. Especially to be beneficial to the point of increasing the overall value of our land, I think we’ve moved in the right direction but have only slowed down the impact we’re having.

landethic3In our community we could certainly pollute our air less, we could certainly get rid of grass, and plant a garden. We could be more mindful of how we dispose of various waste. I’d love to see every yard zeroscaped on our street. I’d like to use less water, and electricity during our Summers, and use less gas during the winter. I’d like to harness the power of the sun to heat our house, and water.

Another huge way I could extend my reach have is to offset some of the others impact surrounding me. I could plant enough of a garden to subsidize some of their produce needs. I think in doing so, people would appreciate the difference in quality and interest might take root (pun intended) and spread and span generations. I personally think setting a good example, and then boasting the benefits of such is how we turn an instant gratification type of society into one that thinks harder about what it is we’re doing.

I completely agree that “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”. I do think that he intended to suggest that we should take into consideration that the land is more than just dirt in the ground. But instead it is much the base of all pyramids of energy in our world. The need for us to recognize our impact to the whole ecosystem is huge. Leopold definitely suggest that integral importance of a biotic community should supercede that of the individual. For me the implications of putting land first, or at least equal to us is huge huge. I’d have to change just about every way of life that I currently enjoy. Taken to the extreme it sounds much like something so incredibly time consuming and such a tedious lifestyle that i see why so many people avoid it at all costs.

Beauty to me is definitely more motivating when considering my impact on land. While I understand land ethics, it’s beauty to me is more immediately impactful and therefore gives us a better sense of fulfillment in the short, than the approach of ethics. I’d like to think I exhibit at least a blend of both ethic, and aesthetic benefits to our land. My behavior concerning land ethic is definitely more so from self interest. Although I completely understand the need for an ethical approach, and slowly find myself being more conscious and proactive in behavior that exhibits ethics in land use.

I think this exercise was useful in the sense that it reaffirms most of our thoughts that there is something bigger and more important going on. In reading “The Land Ethic”, I landethic2experienced a bit of mixed thoughts, emotions, opinions, and ideas. In small ways I feel the reading related to this assignment has changed some of my opinions. I think that Leopold, and writing from his era is much more impactful than most writing now. Sentence structure, and word choice makes you think a lot more about what is being said. I’d definitely recommend to others this assignment.

I really enjoyed the analogy right in the beginning. It immediately engaged me and brought my attention to the absurdity of doing nothing. It made me immediately think that what was to come would be unsettling, and made me want to keep reading. There definitely were parts that sounded “preachy” to me. You could certainly feel Leopold’s conviction conveyed through his written words. All be told, I feel like as long as you’re open minded, and read for the purpose of being enlightened, instead of persuaded you’ll enjoy reading this text.