Sand County Almanac Essay

A Sand County Almanac A Book Investigation Section I: The Almanac 1) Which is the birth year of mercy for all things natural, wild, and free? Why does Leopold give it that name? * The year 1865 is the birth year of all things natural, wild, and free. Leopold gives it this name because in that year, John Muir offered to buy from his brother, who then owned a farm 30 miles East of Leopold’s oak, a sanctuary for wildflowers that had gladdened his youth. His brother declined but could not suppress the idea. (February, pg. 7) 2) According to Leopold, which has greater value – things hoped for… or things assured? * The disappointment that Leopold feels on the autumn mornings the covey-chorus are silent shows that things hoped for have a higher value than things assured. (September, pg. 57) 3) When and under what conditions does Leopold feel that to him boundaries disappear? How far does solitude extend? * At daybreak when Aldo Leopold is the sole owner of all that acres he can walk over and the expanses are unknown to deed or map but known to dawn, he feels boundaries, as well as the thought of being bounded, disappear.

Solitude extends on every hand as far as the dew can reach. (July, pg. 44) 4) Who are the “Old soldiers of the prairie war”? * Bur oaks are the “Old soldiers of the prairie war”. (April, pg. 29) 5) Where were the missing grouse hiding during the snowstorm? Where had they been before arriving there? How could Leopold tell? * During the snowstorm, the missing grouse had hidden in a leafy top of an oak blown down last summer. Before arriving there, they had been on a growth of nightshade. Aldo Leopold could tell bu examining their drippings and also some tracks they had left. December, pg. 85) 6) According to Leopold, what are the reasons for the decline in wild plant species? Where can remnants of the prairie plants still be found? * The shrinking/decline in the wild plant species (flora) is due to a combo of clean-farming, woodlot grazing, and good roads. Remnants of the prairie plants can still be found along the fenced areas of railroads. (July, pg. 51) 7) In what year did the last Passenger Pigeon meet a charge of buckshot? * The last Passenger Pigeon met a charge of buckshot in 1899. February, pg. 13) 8) What are the spiritual dangers of not owning a farm? * 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. (February, pg. 6) 9) On a June morning, what triggers the robin to begin singing? * The robin is triggered to sing on a June morning when the light intensity reaches 0. 1 candle power. 10) Who was the fugitive Black Hawk? This question will require some extra research.

Answer the question and identify its origin in “San County” * The fugitive Black Hawk was a Sauk American Indian leader who led war parties of Sauk, Meskwakis (Fox) and Kickapoo’s to fight American forts and settlements in 1832 in present day Illinois and Wisconsin during the “Black Hawk War”. (July, pg. 53) 11) Who performs the “Sky Dance”? At what time? * The male woodcock performs the “Sky Dance” at exactly 6:50 p. m. on the first warm evening in April and one minute later each day until June 1st at the time of 7:50 p. m. At daybreak the whole show is repeated ending at 5:15 a. . in early April and that ending time advances two minutes every day until June when it closes at 3:15 a. m. (April, pgs. 32-35) 12) What bird sings the Ave Maria in the hush of dawn? * The quail sings the Ave Maria in the hush of dawn. (September, pg. 57) 13) To Leopold, what ancient tree is the greatest of all trees? Why? * According to Leopold, the ancient cottonwood is the greatest of all trees because in the tree’s youth, ‘he’ shaded the buffalo and wore a halo of pigeons. Also, someday the young cottonwood may become ancient. (November, pg. 6) 14) What is the smallest flower that blows? * Draba is the smallest flower that blows. (April, pg. 28) 15) To Leopold, under what conditions did autumnal pine needles become bluer and the red carpet become redder? * The autumnal pine needles become bluer and the red carpet of dewberry becomes redder when a chorus of quail song burst forth hardly a stone’s throw away. 16) How does Leopold outwit the great trout at the Alder Fork? What was “big” about the trout caught that day? * Leopold outwits the great trout at the Alder Fork by walking pstream, dropping his dry fly into the stream at his feet and pay out line to let it drift towards the trout who is waiting around the bend in a hole under the Alder canopy. What was big about the trout caught that day was the chance. (June, pgs. 42-43) 17) What are the fundamentals of animal economics? * The fundamentals of animal economics are how big is a home range at various seasons, what food and cover must it include, when and how is it defended against trespassing and whether ownership in an individual, family, or group affair. (December, pg. 6) 18) Who were the ‘Class of 1937’? * Seven banded chickadees made up the ‘Class of 1937’ including bird #65290. (December, pg. 94) 19) What is the best definition of a conservationist? * The best definition of a conservationist is written not 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. Someone who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. (November, pg. 73) 20) What does Leopold consider the best text on animal ecology? How may it be translated? Every farm is the best textbook on animal ecology. Woodsmanship is the translation of the book. (December, pg. 86) Section II: Summarize and critique “The Land Ethic” Aldo Leopold begins “The Land Ethic” with an account of the ancient Greek hero Odysseus. After returning from the Troy Wars, god-like Odysseus hanged a dozen slave girls of his household solely based on a suspicion of misconduct. Since the days of Odysseus, we have extended ethical criteria to many fields but suffer great shortcomings when judgments are made in those fields based on expediency only.

Like Odysseus, our society makes decisions to obtain a desired effect even when those decisions are unjust and come with severe consequence. “The disposal of property was then, as is now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong… Land, like Odysseus’s slave girls, is still property. The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations. ” In the time of Leopold (and even to this day) there is no ethic dealing with the relationship between man and his surrounding lands of plants and animals.

The application of this ethic is not only plausible but absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of the natural world as we know it. According to Aldo Leopold, ethics are a process in ecological evolution described by ecological as well as philosophical terms. “Ecologically, ethic is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. Philosophically, ethic is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct. ” These are two different definitions for one word but it can be said that ethic can cause groups of interdependent individuals to evolve means of working together as a community.

The complexity of these means has increased with population density and advances in technology. Leopold also states that, “An ethic may be regarded as a mode of guidance for meeting ecological situations so new or intricate or involving such deferred reactions that the path of social expediency isn’t discernible to the average individual. ” This shows a lack of ecological knowledge among most members of society, which when combined with the increasing complexity of intertwined communities, results in an insufficient and futile approach to these new ecological situations.

In the section titled, ‘The Community Concept,’ Leopold explains the concepts behind a community and what that means on an individual level and on a larger scale. “All ethics so far rest on the single premise that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts that he competes for a place in. However, due to ethics, this individual feels the need to also co-operate so that there may actually be a place to compete for. ” This co-operation can be seen in the human community as both a conscience and sub-conscience effort.

The idea of land ethic changes the role of mankind from conqueror of the land-community (surrounding soils, waters, plants and animals) to just plain member and citizen of it. Unfortunately, without completely understanding the important nature of our role as a member in the complex land-community, we steam right along making the same type of expedient decisions as Odysseus not realizing that, “the conqueror role is eventually self-defeating. ” Detrimental development can be seen all over the world in varying severity from the un-wrecked lands of

India to the destroyed habitats of the American Southwest. The concept of land as a community is imperative to its survival. The next sections, ‘The Ecological Conscience’ and ‘Substitutes for a Land Ethic,’ Leopold goes into detail about our perspective on land. He defines conservation as, “a state of harmony between men and land. ” This is a broad definition and Leopold goes into detail about the different interpretations of it. In Leopold’s time, the idea of conservations simply was to, “obey the law, vote right, join some organizations, and practice what conservation is profitable on your land. The last part, profit, is a key factor in many “conservation”-based issues. Economic self-interest is still a primary tool for decision making now days just as it was a century ago. It is the key concern that governs land-use ethics. Most wildlife as well as entire biotic communities (marshes bogs, dunes, and deserts) has no economic value (at least directly) but stability does depend on them. Farmers will do what it takes to increase the value of their land only when it profits them. Any positive impact this may have on the land-community is purely coincidental.

The assumed lack of profit in these ‘waste’ areas was only proven wrong after it was too late. At times, scientists basically had to fabricate reasons why non-profitable species were still valuable. For example, ornithologists once produced a theory that without song birds to eat insects, the insects would eat us all up (maybe not literally but the point was still made). Education concerning conservation has increased but it is the content of this education that is lacking. The result is, “that we have more education but less soil, fewer healthy woods, and as many floods as in 1937. The American people rely upon the government to manage our lands. Government ownership and management now encompasses forestry, range management, soil conservation, fisheries, migratory birds, and much more. Leopold asks the important questions, “What is the ultimate magnitude of the enterprise? Will the tax base carry its eventual ramifications? ” The answer lies in the very basis of the concept of land ethic which assigns more obligations to the private land owner and calls for a voluntary practice of conservation on their own lands.

In ‘The Land Pyramid,’ Leopold ties together the concepts of conservation and community and discusses his view of human relationships to the land. He starts off by detailing trophic interactions and compares them to a pyramid where the bottom (the greatest portion in quantity) represents the soil and the successive layers reflect a numerical progression from base to apex: the predators (fewest in quantity) “Each successive layer depends on those below it for food and other services, and each in turn furnishes food and services to those above. Instead of comparing the trophic system to a single food chain, he compares all living things to links in hundreds of chains and that, “The pyramid is a tangle of chains so complex [it seems] disorderly, yet the stability of the system proves it to be a highly organized structure. ” The chain was originally short and simple but evolution has added many links. Leopold’s view of land is that it is a, “fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals,” and that the food chains are the, “living channels which conduct energy. When change occurs in this system, many other parts must adjust. Evolution is change but takes place slowly and locally so the system (pyramid) had time to adjust to these changes. However, with the advancements in our society, change can take place violently and rapidly. The notion of land as an energy circuit conveys three basic ideas: 1) that land is not merely soil, 2) that the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; other may or may not, and 3) that man-made changes are different than evolutionary changes and the effects cannot be foreseen.

Using the combined evidence of history and ecology, the deduction can be made that, “the less violent the man-made changes, the greater the probability of successful readjustment in the pyramid. ” In the next section, ‘Land Health and the A-B Cleavage,’ Aldo Leopold separates “conservationists” into two distinctly cleaved groups. Group A “regards the land as soil, and its function as commodity-production. ” Group B “regards the land as a biota, and its function as something broader. He states that this cleavage exists in many different areas of conservation (forestry, wildlife, and agriculture) but states that it’s group B who truly, “feels the stirrings of an ecological conscience. ” In the last section of “The Land Ethic,” Aldo Leopold summarizes the important themes previously discussed and addresses ways to change our approach to land management and conservation. He states that, “It is inconceivable… that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value… far broader than mere economic value. He readdresses the issue of detrimental farming and the profit driven attitude of farmers by insisting that, “economic feasibility limits the tether of what can or cannot be done for land” and that land ethic is a, “product of social evolution. ” He reinforces the idea that, “what is ‘right’ is when [land-use] tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community,” and that it’s “’wrong’ when it tends otherwise. Though he feels that formal education lacks in addressing ecological concepts, land ethic will evolve with advances from the individual to the community and “our present problem is one of attitudes and implements. ” Even though Aldo Leopold wrote “The Land Ethic” over sixty years ago, all of the major themes he addresses still apply to this day. He portrays his feelings in a well-formatted collection of definitions, concepts, and examples that portray a sense of urgency to the reader and challenges them to take part in a personal change.

Though I found this piece to be touching and insightful, I do feel that some changes have been made since Leopold’s time. He stated that, “Much higher education seems deliberately to avoid ecological concepts. ” However, I feel that attitudes have shifted into a much broader approach to conservation and management. Education in these areas have developed into a number of degree programs that focus on every natural resource we have and covers topics ranging from a completely “hands-off” approach to sustainable resource consumption.

Every issue of land-use can be found in numerous classrooms around the world and I feel this is a great improvement from when Leopold wrote A Sand County Almanac. There is also one view that Leopold holds that I’m not sure if I entirely agree with. He states that, “a dense population requires a more violent conversion. ” While this might be true in most cases I personally feel that if society confines itself to urban areas then in the long run there will be lest habitat loss in the surrounding areas. I feel that suburbs detract away from suitable habitat more than if those people were to live in more densely populated cities.

Let’s take the city of Austin for example. Once upon a time there were beautiful and sparsely populated hillsides in the area of Bee Caves. However, a number of people who had grown tired of living inside of Austin city limits decided that they wanted a piece of those hillsides. So instead of having a more centralized and densely populated urban area with vast surrounding unoccupied habitat (by people that is), you now have these hillsides dotted with lavish homes as far as the eye can see. I feel that this creates more habitat loss and fragmentation that just the urban area alone.

There is one quote in particular that I felt touched me the most due to its relevance to our time. It focuses on the views of many people in our nation that I think has been an ongoing theme for generations. It states that, “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. [Man] 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. In fact, I fear that this take on society’s perception of nature may be truer and truer with each generation until one day, we decide to build a strip-mall over Yellowstone National Park! Section III: Essay Quotations Escudilla “We spoke harshly of the Spaniards who, in their zeal for gold and coverts, had needlessly extinguished the native Indians. It did not occur to us that we, too, were the captains of an invasion too sure of its own righteousness. ” *This quote stood out because it speaks of the blind ambition driving man’s greed, no matter what the costs.

The ‘invasion’ spoken of is our intrusion into every biome on Earth, not thinking about any long-term consequences. Whether it be due to population growth, search for natural resources, outdoor recreation, or even scientific pursuit, the main focus of mankind is our own selfish needs. The means by which we acquire these things will ultimately be the demise of everything around us, and eventually, ourselves. The Round River “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. *I think everyone has heard this question asked, and I’m afraid to admit, maybe even asked it themselves. There are numerous reasons what biodiversity is a good thing; economic importance, search for new medicines, ecosystem function and so forth. Why, though, should we have to justify the importance in not destroying species of plants and animals that have been here long before we have? Do we not know that everything has a place and a purpose and that alone should be reason enough for letting it be? We have lost species before and nature as a whole seems to keep ticking.

However, now that they are gone, they will never be back and their full importance in the community never known. The Green Lagoons “Never did we plan the morrow, for we had learned that in the wilderness some new and irresistible distraction is sure to turn up each day before breakfast. Like the river, we were free to wander. ” *This quote from Leopold has ‘naturalist’ written all over it. This is why some of us just have to be outdoors. Even though nature operates on a pretty regular schedule, it is never exactly the same. Something new will always present itself if you just look for it.

This is not for the untrained eye, nor can it be learned from a book or a classroom. To truly understand the complexity of ecology and its inner-workings, you have to spend as much time as possible immersed in its glory. Each day spent observing nature first hand is a day spent accumulating knowledge of the outdoors. Clandeboya “We assume, because all these creatures perform their diverse tasks without admonition audible to us, that they receive none, that their skills are inborn and their industry automatic, that weariness is unknown to the wild. *This truly speaks to the oblivious nature in which we regard wildlife and the natural world. Many people go through life thinking the world outside of ours is on autopilot. We rarely think of life and death because we have enough safe guards to be comfortable with our ignorance. The real world is not like that. In the real world there is only life and death. If a predator cannot catch its prey, it does not eat and risks dying. If a prey cannot outrun the predator, it will die. Wildlife is constantly battling to out-compete its competition so that it may survive.

They must learn from their mistakes, if they are so lucky to be given that opportunity. Meanwhile, many people in our society are only alive due to science and technology, not survival of the fittest. We take the luxury of life for granted. Wildlife in American Culture “A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than by a mob of onlookers. ” *This is another quote that explicitly details our attraction for the outdoors. Of course ‘hunter’ can apply to any outdoorsman.

There is not absolute freedom except when you are immersed in nature, out of the reach of anyone’s knowing. This is when ethic is most important. It is imperative to operate in nature in a manner that has little lasting impression. This can also speak to the true nature of a person. How they behave outdoors immolates their consciousness and says more about who they are than the perception of their peers. Song of the Gavilan “One of the facts hewn to by science is that every river needs more people, and all people need more inventions, and hence more science; the good life depends on the indefinite extension of this chain of logic. *This stood out because it contradicts our very purpose as scientists. Once again, we as a people are driven by our own selfish desires and misguided judgments. We seek out the ‘good life’ in hopes that we can further our “progress”. Management, however, demands unbiased decision-making. If we come up with management decisions based solely on our own interests, we are doing the land a great injustice. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Information on Black Hawk obtained from http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Black_Hawk_War