Thursday, January 10, 2008

Aldo Leopold - From BEN Passages

Just finished reading Aldo Leopold's "The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays.

Here are some of my favorite passages:

"For twenty centuries and longer, all civilized thought has rested upon one basic premise: that it is the destiny of man to exploit and enslave the earth.

The biblical injunction to "go forth and multiply" is merely one of many dogmas which imply this attitude of philosophical imperialism.

During the past few decades, however, a new science called ecology has been unobtrusively spreading a film of doubt over this heretofore unchallenged "world view."  Ecology tells us that no animal -not even man- can be regarded as independent of his environment.  Plants, animals, men, and soil are a community of interdependent parts, an organism.  No organism can survive the decadence of a member....  It may flatter our ego to be called the sons of man, but it would be nearer the truth to call ourselves the brothers of our fields and forests." -    Aldo Leopold, Dedication Ceremony of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum - 1934


"Conservation means harmony between men and land.

When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by his land; when both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation.  When one or the other grows poorer, we do not."  - Aldo Leopold, The Farmer as a Conservationist - 1939


"Everyone ought to be dissatisfied with the slow spread of conservation to the land.  Our "progress" still consists largely of letterhead pieties and convention oratory.  The only progress that counts is that on the actual landscape of the back forty, and here we are still slipping two steps backward for each forward stride.

The usual answer to this dilemma is "more conservation education."  My answer is yes by all means, but are we sure that only the volume of educational effort needs stepping up?  Is something lacking in its content as well?  I think there is, and I will attempt to define it.

The basic defect is this:  we have not asked the citizen to assume any real responsibility.  We have told him that if he will vote right, obey the law, join some organizations, and practice what conservation is profitable on his own land, that everything will be lovely; the government will do the rest.

This formula is too easy to accomplish anything worthwhile.  It calls for no efforts or sacrifice; no change in our philosophy of values.  It entails little that any decent and intelligent person would not have done, of his own accord, under the late but not lamented Babbitian code.

No important change in human conduct is ever accomplished without an internal change in our intellectual emphases, our loyalties, our affections, and our convictions.  The proof that conservation has not yet touched these foundations of conduct lies in the fact that philosophy, ethics, and religion have not yet heard of it.  I need a short name for what is lacking; I call it the ecological conscience.  Ecology is the science of communities, and the ecological conscience is therefore the ethics of community life."  - Aldo Leopold, The Ecological Conscience - 1947

No comments: