Presentation on theme: "A Sand County Almanac And Sketches Here and There By Aldo Leopold Book Report by Matthew Hallas Ecological Economics Dr. Paul Sutton May 15, 2012 “There."— Presentation transcript:
A Sand County Almanac And Sketches Here and There By Aldo Leopold Book Report by Matthew Hallas Ecological Economics Dr. Paul Sutton May 15, 2012 “There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” - ALDO LEOPOLD
Brief Background on Dr. Aldo Leopold “Considered by many as the father of wildlife management and of the United States’ wilderness system, Aldo was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer and outdoor enthusiast.” - The Aldo Leopold Foundation He wrote this manuscript in the hopes that it would be geared towards general audiences examining humanities relationship to the natural world. He died of a heart attack just one week after receiving word that it would be published, he was helping to fight a neighbors grass fire. He is regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century Born 1887, died April 21, 1948
A Journey Through Land Use Conservation and Wildlife Management in the Early-Mid 1900’s Aldo has the ability to make even the most mundane of occurrences seem breathtaking. It is as if the reader must witness the events he has described or risk losing out on some innate connection between man and nature. “We sally forth, the dog and I, at random… Now he is going to translate for me the olfactory poems that who-knows-what silent creatures have written in the summer night. At the end of each poem sits the author-if we can find him. What we actually find is beyond predicting: a rabbit, suddenly yearning to be elsewhere; a woodcock, fluttering his disclaimer; a cock pheasant, indignant over wetting his feathers in the grass.” -(Leopold, P. 43)
A Sand County Almanac The first portion of the book takes place on Aldo’s farm and the surrounding area in Sand County, Wisconsin. Starting with the “ January Thaw” chapter Aldo leads the reader month by month through the various seasons, migrations, floods, and storms until finally ending in December with “ Home Range”. He discusses how he and his family traverse the property in search of the proper tree to fell for firewood for the coming year. “We came upon a great slab of bark, freshly torn from the trunk of the roadside oak… By the next day the leaves had wilted, and we knew the lightning had bequeathed to us three cords of prospective fuel wood. We mourned the loss of the old tree, but knew that a dozen of its progeny standing straight and stalwart on the sands had already taken over its job of wood- making.” (Leopold, P. 9)
The Joy of Hunting and Fishing Aldo was well-known for being an avid hunter and fisherman. He would routinely travel days to weeks at a time and live off the land. He does not always catch what he is looking for however. Nice to know even THE expert has trouble catching trout! However his approach to hunting was based solely off of need, and when he would catch a large deer he would be sure to salt the meat and save it for later on. His ability to display his deep-seated passion for wildlife while at the same time joy of ending the lives of those very animals results in complicated emotions for the reader, but you can tell he means every word in the manuscript.
Home Range and Migration “Science knows little about home range: how big it is at various seasons, what food and cover it must include, when and how it is defended against trespass, and whether ownership is an individual, family, or group affair. These are the fundamentals of animal economics, or ecology. Every farm is a textbook on animal ecology; woodsmanship is the translation of the book.” (Leopold, P. 81) “I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is not written with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. Signatures of course differ, whether written with axe or pen, and this is as it should be. (Leopold, P. 68)
Part II Sketches Here and There The next part of the book takes you through much of Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, Arizona and New Mexico, Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico, Oregon and Utah, and finally Manitoba, Canada (in separate chapters). It is told as a recounting of past adventures that Aldo has experienced, starting with his learning how to wield a shotgun. It starts to get a little more daunting, with extreme weather impacting his excursions and encounters with wolves and bears quite common. Throughout all of this you are still controlled by this feeling that we are meant to be experiencing what Aldo is discussing. The world is out there, we are part of nature, we must get back to these roots to re-establish or mislead conceptions of happiness and “freedom from fear” “It must be poor life that achieves freedom from fear.” (Leopold, P. 126) “When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted as the thing children lack, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living.”(Leopold, P. 120)
Part III The Upshot The book deals with a lot of technological innovations that completely changed the landscape of Aldo’s world, as well as the way in which people communicated. It is interesting to note how his idea that ecosystems worked as one massive “machine” was groundbreaking and many of his other ideas still stand today. Although this book is not focused on the hard science of issues such as degradation, pollution, urban expansion, etc. that was not the goal. The goal was to connect with a general audience that had little to no experience with ecology. This was accomplished without question. “They did not understand, but they listened to and looked at, the pretty lady in black velvet who came to enlighten them, in a Boston accent, about woman suffrage. They marveled, too, at the telephone engineer who strung wires on junipers and brought instantaneous messages from town. An old man asked whether the wire could bring him a side of bacon.” (Leopold, P. 135)
Conservation Ethic Much of the discussion in the final part of the book focuses on the wide array of problems seen with conservation. Although people still want to see the “great outdoors”, accessing that type of wilderness is certain to cause damage to the ecosystems leading to said “great outdoors”. An unfortunate dilemma indeed. “Public policies for outdoor recreation are controversial. Equally conscientious citizens hold opposite views on what it is and what should be done to conserve its resource-base. Thus the Wilderness Society seeks to exclude roads from the hinterlands, and the Chamber of Commerce to extend them, both in the name of recreation.”(Leopold, P. 168)
READ THE BOOK If you have not read this book yet you MUST do it very soon. The way Aldo articulates the extremely complicated and many times convoluted science of ecology, demonstrates rhetoric skills the likes of Thoreau. It is a landmark compilation of immensely detailed and accurate descriptions of our landscape in the early- mid 1900’s. Without Aldo Leopold the United States would look vastly different, he truly was an inspiration. The book is less than $12 on Amazon, do it.