Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Good Cazadora post, then a bit on Leopold

NorCal Cazadora has a great post about some books that have influenced her as a hunter. The reason I post this here is because these almost invariably include thoughts on the ethics of hunting. The comments section includes some other good works, so click on those, too.

I'd like to point out her first book, a Sand County Almanac, at a time just prior to the split between the environmental and conservation movements. Mr. Leopold was one of those great thinkers, a man who marvelled in the intricacies and connectedness of ideas. To environmentalism he elucidated a number of important concepts, including the First Rule of Intelligent Tinkering, and he moved forward the notion of ecology as a legitimate school of thought at a time when science was focused laser-like on breaking everything into its component parts. And this same man who waxed poetic about the loss of life and diversity, who founded the Wilderness Society, was also the man who waxed poetic about building your own bow and arrows to hunt, about hunting great blue herons with peregrine falcons. Leopold understood that humanity's relationship to the land and ecosystems was amazingly intricate, profound, and that our future depended on a true understanding of our place in the land.

It is often the influences of current society to take apart historical figures, to look down on them with condescention at their simpler, simplistic ways, and, in the supposed light of our greater wisdom, to separate out those attributes which we dislike from those which we admire. In so doing, we show ourselves as the simpletons, forgetting the constant winds of time and thought, forgetting that we can almost never know the intricacies of eras past, and losing the subtle nuances when we are lucky enough to catch a glimpse. We lose the ability to truly learn from those past experiences, and, like much of science in Leopold's time, we lose the ability to see the true connections that make for a rich, often profound existence, regardless of era.

Of the most influential ideas in my life, Aldo Leopold brought me to a conscious understanding of a land ethic and its need. If you get some time, please click over to that link and read his own words on the subject.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that Leopold's writing is just absolutely beautiful, heartfelt, inspiring and full of information and perspective. I think high schools should have literature classes dedicated to his work. Perhaps make environmental literature a pre-req for graduation. Perhaps then we would get more students into environmental studies in college and even have citizens interested in the welfare of the environment... In this dream world, this environmental lit class would have Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, John Muir... Thoueau? Who else? I'd like to discover more women writers in this genre also...
Zorro S.

Josh said...

Zorro, you make a point I've been meaning to blog about! You are right on that we need to include ecology included in literature.

Could you imagine the impact of reading Aldo Leopold on a group of people getting bombarded with PETA ads on MTV?

For the record, I used to be a high-school teacher, so I'm not just spewing this as naive rhetoric.

Phillip said...

Zorro has a great point. I was fortunate enough in college to be introduced to Leopold, Edward Abbey, and many of the others in a senior seminar on American Nature Writers. I think high-schoolers would be well served by teachers who incoporated some of these folks into the canon (some, like Thoreau, already are, but the focus is often on the political rather than the environmental).

Leopold, by the way, Josh, was one of the best. His writing had a pretty incredible influence on my own thinking, because he reinforced my own notions that we have to see the big picture, and that every little thing we do has an impact on everyhing else. We have to take the systemic approach toward wildlife and habitat management.

One of my favorite quotes from Leopold, by the way, tells us how to live in and with nature... "Live fast, suck hard, and die often."