More About Aldo Leopold’s Subversive Ideas

@Dick Klade in Comment 3 to preceding post

Button found 14 April 2011 and reused

Thanks for restoring the interesting lost section of your comment.

It’s not surprising that Leopold’s ideas didn’t always suit the bureaucracy.  Ecology is the subversive science, as Paul Sears said.

The game managers seemed to accept Leopold early.  As an undergraduate in 1953 or 1954, I had a course in game management taught by Willard D. Klimstra, an Iowa Ph.D. from the period when Paul Errington, another game management great, was there.

Klimstra’s supplementary reading list for the class had at least one piece by Leopold. It was my first encounter with Leopold’s writing though I don’t remember just which of his articles it was. I’m afraid I didn’t read it as carefully as, later on, I would expect students to treat my reading lists.

Lots of people came to environmental issues in the 1970s from the humanities side.  Many of them think highly of Sand County Almanac, but I have a suspicion that not all of them take the quote given in the earlier post (19 April) as literally as Leopold meant.  It is a profoundly anti-anthropocentric idea.

Leopold had other heterodox ideas, some of which still haven’t had the attention they deserve.  For example, he thought that conservation was everybody’s, and especially every land owner’s, duty.  Hence, paying land owners to conserve would be counterproductive.  If the government pays land owners for doing some reforestation or leaving second-rate cropland in perennial grass instead of planting corn, the incentive for the land owners to do it on their own will be lessened or lost.  Likewise, if the government will buy conservation easements, fewer land owners will be willing to donate them.  It’s a sound conclusion. At least, most of the people where I grew up would have thought that if somebody will pay for it, you’re a fool to give it away.

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One Comment

  1. Posted April 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    The last sampling of Leopold’s unorthodox ideas is very interesting. It supports the idea that ultimately environmentali awareness depends on broad-scale education, not legislation.