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Dreams of Eden
Sterling Hite
Salt Lake City Community College

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This paper is based on the writing, A Land Ethic, by Aldo Leopold, an American author,
scientist, ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. This paper will be discussing philosophical and
political ideals and comparisons made by Leopold, and my opinions and feelings of some of those ideals.
I will begin with a summary of the actual piece by Leopold, and continue with some responses to
statements and concepts that were raised in the writing, then a critique of all of the combined work
followed by the conclusion.
A Summary Of
Aldo Leopold put into perfect clarity the modern human disregard for the value of land beyond
an economic standpoint with the story of Odysseus hanging twelve slave girls off hand. The killing of the
slave girls was acceptable at that time because they were his property to do with as he saw fit. The
cavalier attitude regarding property has survived to see modern times, with only slight changes in what
defines property.
An important point was made to the effect that human beings consider themselves apart from
the land thereby having no obligation to it. This train of thought leads to exploitation and ultimate
destruction of the land. Mankind must realize his place is within the community, not outside or above,
and accept his responsibilities to the community. How can we change mankinds habit of only doing
enough to allow the land to survive so that a profit may be had, to a species that values and protects the
lands simply because its his home? Is education the answer?
I was dismayed to read just how little concern there is for the land above economics. Even from
those whose daily lives depend on the land and are immersed in it, like farmers. Farmers are in the
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position, and have the numbers, to really make a positive impact on the environment. Yet, even they
seem to have no drive toward going above the necessary to protect their investment. Leopold provided
the example of the farmers in Wisconsin whose topsoil was eroding and only would do the absolute
minimum to prevent worse loss of topsoil, and then they went back to their regular practices to
ultimately be no better off.
It is the mindset of North Americans to pass on large responsibilities such as conservation
efforts to the government. As large as the government is, it still cannot sufficiently care for all the land.
What I learned most from reading this piece was that we all must be responsible for our local
communities for this world to be healthy. Everyone taking a small local responsibility is worth much
more than one large corporation trying to do everything.
Philosophical and Political Ideals
My philosophy about conservation began to culminate about fifteen years ago when I was doing
a lot of fishing, camping, and hiking. I am sad to say that before, and well into, this time I was most
definitely not conservation aware. The more time I spent out in nature, the more I came to love it. I
began to notice bits of trash along trails, or fishing line strewn everywhere, beer bottles, and even fly
infested human waste. It made me very upset, and sad, not only at the people responsible but also at
myself, for I knew that I have been guilty of my share of it in the past. My philosophy is not new, not
elaborate, but it is my small part in the effort. If you pack it in, pack it out and leave nature natural is
the ideal to which I heed.
There are ways to be a member of a community versus a conqueror of. One way might be, while
the subject of camping is fresh, is to use light gear that is eco-friendly when going into the outdoors
instead of motorhomes and fifth wheels. Another application of conservation closer to home might be
to xeriscape your property which helps to reduce water consumption, and retains a more native
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landscape versus changing it. One more thing that can be done is to be much more energy efficient, as
in not leaving the lights, using energy saver bulbs, and even buying more economic vehicles. Being
energy efficient is probably the largest impact an individual can make on a global scale because of all
that is involved in energy production.
I believe the land-relation is today what it has been for a very long time, economic. Although
conservation awareness and efforts are growing because of organizations such as Earth System
Governance Project (ESGP), European Environment Agency (EEA), and the ICLEI - Local Governments for
Sustainability and progress is being made, the unfortunate reality is that the world we live in is fueled by
petroleum and driven by currency. And I believe it will be a long time before we outgrow those
To be a responsible, ethical member of a community is to be aware of the impact your actions
have on every aspect and member of that community. If you were to commit an act in your community
such as dumping antifreeze in your backyard, you most likely are going to just hope that your human
neighbors dont notice. But there are others that should concern you every bit as much like: the worms
you just killed that kept the soil fertile to grow the plants which feed insects and mice, which feed the
birds and snakes and all the other creatures and vegetation that surround and fill the community.
I agree with Leopolds statement, A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity,
stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise. And I dont believe
that the integrity of the biotic community supersedes the needs of its individual members because they
both are critically dependent upon each other. There is a reciprocal need of each other, by each other,
and if that balance were not there then the entire system will collapse. This statement says, to me, that
the importance of the natural world to be healthy and stable is such that it should be held in the highest
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I am one who places high value on aesthetics. Aesthetics can be a great motivator. It most
definitely stirs up emotions when you go for a hike, and come to your favorite spot to find beer cans and
trash. To see such beauty disgraced in such a way does inspire drive to go into action as an active
member of conservation.
Thinking on my land ethic, I believe that it originated from a true interest in the non-human
elements. I grew up in the woods and swamps of Charleston S.C. and was always exited and entranced
by the beauty and captivated by all that the woods had to offer. There was a time when I was just an
irresponsible teen who didnt care about anything other than girls and beer, but one thing that I always
believed was that if any species didnt belong on this planet it is us humans.
I enjoyed reading the Land Ethic. I didnt really have many opinions before I read it, but it did
force me to opinions. Those opinions are mostly about humans, but also opinions about the true
meaning of value which has little to do with money. And it also made me think about what it is to be a
member of a community and what I may be doing that could be harmful to some of its members.
The worst part about reading a piece like this is that it really shows the failings of human kind in
a way that bothers me. Like the farmers not doing a drop more than what is absolutely necessary. And
then it gets me thinking about how much damage we do to the Earth just so we can drive our cars, or
have our Iphones and computers and all the other little things we use to be comfortable or flashy. Its a
chain reaction that usually ends up with me upset, and this case is no exception. Aside from that little
rant, this writing also made me realize that there are people who do care and it makes me hopeful. And
it also makes me inspired to be more aware of my community and to be more of an asset to my
community. I feel as though it would do a great deal of good if everyone were to read this piece.
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I think that the only way to change the land-relation is to change the human mentality which is
immensely stubborn. To have more literature like the Land Ethic would be a big step forward in
educating our species about the importance of all other species and some of the things we can do to for
conservation. I am hopeful for the future that we may witness the rising of that special person who has
the ability to inspire the masses and drive his message home to the dense minds of humans in such a
way as to begin a global active movement toward conservation, toward a better standard of life for
every species, toward reclamation of the land and waters we have befouled, toward a harmony with
nature instead of a dominance of it, toward my dreams of an Eden.