The
gradual shift and decline of our environmental structure has sparked a great
debate in our society leaving people to question whether or not human activity
has caused this change. In “The Land Ethic”, founding father of environmental
ethics, Aldo Leopold, poses the argument that the environment and society are essentially
intertwined and our actions indeed heavily influence the outcome of our
ecosystems welfare. The significance of Earth’s global structure in relation to
human endangerment towards it has caused stark results and leaves one to
question their imprint on Mother Nature. Although Leopold establishes what we
can do for the betterment of our land, he does not cover the harmful and
realistic effects that war and poverty cause, which restrains the validity of
his claim.  

It is easy to assume that Leopold’s
ethical concept is relevant and connected to both todays economical and natural
world, however, although valid it does not take into account the actual effects
of 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 the
progression of war, terror, and destitution on the world’s environmental
structure. We as society want to nullify ethical stewardship by doing our part
to better our land, however, personal, political, and social interferences can
greatly impact our notions and this is a topic Leopold failed to acknowledge.

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Ethical standards seek to define what is
right and wrong. Our direct impact with the natural world is crucial in the
shaping of our ethical self-interest and well-being, Leopold personally
recognized that his dream of a widely accepted set of values and beliefs is
based on the sole worth of caring for the environment. He established the benefits
of what it is for both the people and the land, and to do so we must evolve by differentiating
the key connections between the two aspects of nature and community. Dating
back 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 is
valuable and who and what is worthless, making conservation of our land move at
an alarmingly slow rate.

 

            Our overwhelming and impactful
contact with the natural world has significant ramifications on our ability to
extend our ethics beyond our own self-interest, posing us with the core
question of whether we are benefitting all things, nature and man alike, meaning
the care for people can not be separated from the care for land. Leopold
provides the moral concept of the land ethic, which
states that, “we can ethically judge our activities in the ecosystems. Insofar
as our actions threaten the ‘integrity, stability, and beauty’ of the
ecosystem, they tend to be wrong; but when our actions tend to maintain the
integrity, 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 the
social conscience from people to land. Simply put, Man is only a member of a
biotic system, therefore we tend to be ecologically blind towards the interplay
between the people and the land. Leopold states that it is the lack of economic
value humans see in the land, we tend to assume that the economic parts of the
biotic clock will still function without the uneconomic parts. For example,
national parks are funded by the federal government, however once destroyed the
heritage of these ecosystems cannot be reestablished. Our duty is to regulate
conservation of national parks, refuges, and monuments, however if not done properly,
the damage is irreversible.

Society has not yet affirmed their belief
in conservation. Leopold states that indeed we can do our social part in
obeying the law, voting, or joining an organization of some kind, but we find
it difficult to define our part in conservation. It is as if we have a lack of
existence of some sort of mental image of land’s biotic mechanisms, we can only
establish a relation to something we can physically see, touch, understand, or
have an admiration towards. There seems to be a separation between what we
perceive of natures mechanisms, versus properly being educated on natures
mechanisms.

Thus, Leopold introduces the concept of
“the balance of nature”, which is sought to be the most common form of
conservation education. The balance of nature is a study that fails to describe
approximately what little society knows about lands mechanisms. Leopold depicts
natures formation as a “biotic mechanism”, and like any system, the mechanisms
of land all work together to make the whole thing run smoothly. Humans tend to
not be mindful of the land and are a main contribution to the breakdown of
Earth’s mechanism, therefore it is important we fully understand the formation
of this mechanism.

Leopold introduces these mechanisms in a
form of a pyramid. The bottom layer being soil, the plant layer that rests on
top of the soil, an insect layer above the plants, a bird layer on top of the
insects, and so forth. He describes that the top layers solely rely on bottom
layer for nutrients, much like how the food chain works among civilization. Land
is a vast energy source that essentially makes all forms of life possible, and
by understanding this pyramid, we are able to grasp the mechanisms of land as
an abstract concept rather than a mere understanding of it being just a
physical mass.

Inevitably our role as “conquerors” of
the land is self defeating. The correlation between homo sapiens and mother
nature counter-act, people’s relationship with land is still heavily influenced
economically, which entails that we view beautiful landscapes as privileges,
not obligations. In the reading I believe Leopold explains what the land ethic
is and clearly defines the exact right and wrongs of it. Through his argument
he creates a visualization so we can better understand the fundamental value of
love for the land, and I do agree that in order to have a moral connection with
something, one needs to admire and respect it.