A Sand County Almanac

A eulogy for the North American Wilderness

Table of Contents

The world that Aldo Leopold was trying to save is gone, and can never come back. We have preserved a fraction as museum pieces, but the ecologies and ecosystem that thrived for thousands of years have been reduce to a smattering of half-chewed memories, beset on all sides by ravenous Progress.

Now, we're 75 years after this treatise on the Land Ethic, and Leopold never had to see the rise of the American lawn, parking lots, commercial air travel, plastics invading ever corner of our lives and the ecosystem, DDT, the West on fire, weeks and months and years of the highest temperatures ever recorded.

Now, we can plant native plants but we don't know what we're aiming for. So few of us have ever seen truly wild places, let alone remember what they look like, smelled like, how they sang, how they celebrated, how they burned. We plant and plant and we beg the Land to remember so that we can remember, so that we can taste the tiniest morsel of the abundance that used to fill baskets to the brim with more than enough to spare and share.

I look around and see a microcosm of it all — progress, ease, "cleanliness", disregard or disinterest for the natural world that we are a part of, not the Master of. Even if we were its master, what a pathetic job we've done of that. We kill the soil, the foundation of it all, and dredge up the remains of the long-dead beings of this world to try to make it whole again. Even the flora and fauna from millions of years before the Age of Man cannot rest, are not free from our destruction and subjugation.

There is rarely true care for the Land in the American heart, just love for What That Land Might Get Me. The value in the land is in what you can get when you sell it some day, and until then it's a chore, something to be beaten into submission. 

The need for a Land Ethic has only increased and it feels more imperative than ever that those of us who do feel these things must do whatever we can to awaken a spirit of deep appreciation for the Land that supports us all.

For my part it feels as yet another call to deepen this Naturalist practice, to share more, to make all of this more accessible than it ever has been. I was just as oblivious as anyone not that long ago, and I had to go through plenty in a few years to reach the point where I could remember what the more-than-human world meant to me, but I don't think it has to be such an arduous thing for everyone as moving across the country and having a bit of an identity crisis.

The world that Aldo Leopold was trying to save is gone, but the world we have now is still here, and we can do our damnedest to respect its right to exist without having to justify that existence to the temporary and ever-shifting values of humankind.