For the Purposes of Life

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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part I of XIII

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

Below – Ansel Adams: “The Tetons and the Snake River.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part II of XIII

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside. If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the week end in town astride a radiator.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part III of XIII

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

Below – An abandoned farm in eastern Montana.
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part IV of XIII

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, ‘What good is it?’ If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”

Below – Gib Myers: “Bison Herd.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part V of XIII

“Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land. Your true modern is separated from the land by many middlemen, and by innumerable physical gadgets. He has no vital relation to it; to him it is the space between cities on which crops grow. Turn him loose for a day on the land, and if the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a ‘scenic’ area, he is bored stiff. If crops could be raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, leather, wool, and other natural land products suit him better than the originals. In short, land is something he has ‘outgrown.’”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part VI of XIII

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part VII of XIII

“Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part VIII of XIII

“We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.”
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part IX of XIII

“Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

Below – Yukon wilderness.
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part X of XIII

“Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility. The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes that he has already discovered what is important; it is such who prate of empires, political or economic, that will last a thousand years. It is only the scholar who appreciates that all history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values. It is only the scholar who understands why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise.”

Below – The Fitzpatrick Wilderness, Wyoming.
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part XI of XIII

“The practices we now call conservation are, to a large extent, local alleviations of biotic pain. They are necessary, but they must not be confused with cures. The art of land doctoring is being practiced with vigor, but the science of land health is yet to be born.”

Below – Ozark Landscape: The White River in northern Arkansas.
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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part XII of XIII

“The good life of any river may depend on the perception of its music; and the preservation of some music to perceive.”

Below – The Buffalo National River

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Land, Community, and Ethics – Quotes from the Work of Aldo Leopold: Part XIII of XIII

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree – and there will be one.”
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