Thegradual shift and decline of our environmental structure has sparked a greatdebate in our society leaving people to question whether or not human activityhas caused this change. In “The Land Ethic”, founding father of environmentalethics, Aldo Leopold, poses the argument that the environment and society are essentiallyintertwined and our actions indeed heavily influence the outcome of ourecosystems welfare. The significance of Earth’s global structure in relation tohuman endangerment towards it has caused stark results and leaves one toquestion their imprint on Mother Nature. Although Leopold establishes what wecan do for the betterment of our land, he does not cover the harmful andrealistic effects that war and poverty cause, which restrains the validity ofhis claim. It is easy to assume that Leopold’sethical concept is relevant and connected to both todays economical and naturalworld, however, although valid it does not take into account the actual effectsof poverty and war on the land.
When it comes to the harsh but true reality,there is a gray-area between what is ethically right and wrong due to theprogression of war, terror, and destitution on the world’s environmentalstructure. We as society want to nullify ethical stewardship by doing our partto better our land, however, personal, political, and social interferences cangreatly impact our notions and this is a topic Leopold failed to acknowledge. Ethical standards seek to define what isright and wrong. Our direct impact with the natural world is crucial in theshaping of our ethical self-interest and well-being, Leopold personallyrecognized that his dream of a widely accepted set of values and beliefs isbased on the sole worth of caring for the environment. He established the benefitsof what it is for both the people and the land, and to do so we must evolve by differentiatingthe key connections between the two aspects of nature and community.
Datingback to the times of Isiah and Ezekiel, the demolition of our soils, waters,and plants is not just unpractical, but wrong(?). As humans we tend to ignore who and what isvaluable and who and what is worthless, making conservation of our land move atan alarmingly slow rate. Our overwhelming and impactfulcontact with the natural world has significant ramifications on our ability toextend our ethics beyond our own self-interest, posing us with the corequestion of whether we are benefitting all things, nature and man alike, meaningthe care for people can not be separated from the care for land. Leopoldprovides the moral concept of the land ethic, whichstates that, “we can ethically judge our activities in the ecosystems. Insofaras our actions threaten the ‘integrity, stability, and beauty’ of theecosystem, they tend to be wrong; but when our actions tend to maintain theintegrity, stability, and beauty of the ecosystem, they tend to be right.” (too long? cite) Perhaps,the defamation of an ecosystem does not only include soils, waters, and plants,but essentially humans. The problem society faces are thesocial conscience from people to land.
Simply put, Man is only a member of abiotic system, therefore we tend to be ecologically blind towards the interplaybetween the people and the land. Leopold states that it is the lack of economicvalue humans see in the land, we tend to assume that the economic parts of thebiotic clock will still function without the uneconomic parts. For example,national parks are funded by the federal government, however once destroyed theheritage of these ecosystems cannot be reestablished. Our duty is to regulateconservation of national parks, refuges, and monuments, however if not done properly,the damage is irreversible.
Society has not yet affirmed their beliefin conservation. Leopold states that indeed we can do our social part inobeying the law, voting, or joining an organization of some kind, but we findit difficult to define our part in conservation. It is as if we have a lack ofexistence of some sort of mental image of land’s biotic mechanisms, we can onlyestablish a relation to something we can physically see, touch, understand, orhave an admiration towards. There seems to be a separation between what weperceive of natures mechanisms, versus properly being educated on naturesmechanisms. Thus, Leopold introduces the concept of”the balance of nature”, which is sought to be the most common form ofconservation education. The balance of nature is a study that fails to describeapproximately what little society knows about lands mechanisms. Leopold depictsnatures formation as a “biotic mechanism”, and like any system, the mechanismsof land all work together to make the whole thing run smoothly. Humans tend tonot be mindful of the land and are a main contribution to the breakdown ofEarth’s mechanism, therefore it is important we fully understand the formationof this mechanism.
Leopold introduces these mechanisms in aform of a pyramid. The bottom layer being soil, the plant layer that rests ontop of the soil, an insect layer above the plants, a bird layer on top of theinsects, and so forth. He describes that the top layers solely rely on bottomlayer for nutrients, much like how the food chain works among civilization. Landis a vast energy source that essentially makes all forms of life possible, andby understanding this pyramid, we are able to grasp the mechanisms of land asan abstract concept rather than a mere understanding of it being just aphysical mass. Inevitably our role as “conquerors” ofthe land is self defeating. The correlation between homo sapiens and mothernature counter-act, people’s relationship with land is still heavily influencedeconomically, which entails that we view beautiful landscapes as privileges,not obligations.
In the reading I believe Leopold explains what the land ethicis and clearly defines the exact right and wrongs of it. Through his argumenthe creates a visualization so we can better understand the fundamental value oflove for the land, and I do agree that in order to have a moral connection withsomething, one needs to admire and respect it.