Quote 1, Aldo Leopold and the Odyssey of Evolution

Button found 14 April 2011 on WMU campus and reused

Every once in a while someone puts a thought so well that other people ought to know about it.  As I come across such a wise saying, or wise crack, I’ll put it in a post like this, for a while at least.

Here’s the first one.

We know now what was unknown to all the preceding caravan of generations: that men are only fellow-voyagers with other creatures in the odyssey of evolution.  This new knowledge should have given us, by this time, a sense of kinship with fellow-creatures; a wish to live and let live; a sense of wonder over the magnitude and duration of the biotic enterprise.

–Aldo Leopold, 1949

These two sentence come from a brief essay “On a Monument to the Pigeon” included as one of the sketches in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There.  Leopold was probably America’s most insightful thinker on conservation.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted April 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I am proud that Aldo Leopold was a fellow member of the U.S. Forest Service and a fellow Badger. I’m not so proud that the Forest Service considered him somewhat of a difficult agitator when he served in the southwest, and “punished” him with the assignment to the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, from which he soon gravitated to the University of Wisconsin faculty. Lots of great men overcome criticism as they go on with what they are destined to accomplish.

    As a young, studp

  2. Richard Brewer
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    @Dick Klade–

    Unfortunately, it looks like most of your second paragraph got cut off.

    Leopold was a Badger all right, through living in Wisconsin for his last 25 years or so, but he grew up in Iowa, which makes him–an Iowan, I guess. If there’s some equivalent name to Badger or Hoosier for Iowa I don’t remember it.

    Though he came out of forestry and wildlife management, and they were an important part of his background, he went far beyond them.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Posted April 23, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    My last paragraph(s) would have said something like this had it(they) not evaporated into some sort of mysterious electronic haze:

    I joined the Forest Service in Madison at the Forest Products Laboratory, where Leopold earlier served as an Assistant Director for a year or two before resigning to join the UW faculty. The Laboratory artist, who was my best friend among the employees, got a special assignment to update exhibits in the main building lobby. Thousands of visitors passed through the exhibit area annually.

    The artist said several employees had questioned why no exhibit space was dedicated to Leopold, and suggested that omission should be corrected during the upgrades to the lobby. Management threw cold water all over the idea, my friend said. It seems Leopold was somewhat of a persona non grata because he had many disagreements with other Lab managers while working there. There also was a strong rumor that Leopold was relieved of his mangement responsibilities in the Southwest and sent to Madison to be put on the sidelines in the research organization because he was straying too far from “the party line” in advocating for broader views of what the Forest Service mission should be.

    Petty stuff, indeed. This happened about 35 years ago. I don’t think the same attitudes would be present today at the Forest Products Lab, or within the Forest Service generally.