ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels

Aldo Leopold: Getting Back to Nature

Updated on August 31, 2016
juneaukid profile image

Richard F. Fleck is author of two dozen books, his latest being Desert Rims to Mountains High and Thoreau & Muir Among the Native Americans.

Taking a Walk with the Children

Aldo Leopold: Getting Back to Nature

Back in 1948 Aldo Leoplold (1887-1948) has left us a volume of classic wilderness writing in the vein of Henry Thoreau and John Muir that grew out of a lifetime of observing the natural world in Wisconsin as well as Arizona. Perhaps one of the most significant features of A Sand County Almanac (1948) is its wry and sometimes strong ironic wit. Through wit, Leopold gives poignancy to his cemmentary on early twentieth-century American education and its ignoring of the natural environment of America. He writes, "I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers."

Later in the book, Leopold suggests that education, unfortunately, "is learning to see one thing by going blind to another." Such difficulties arise because too many professors have become so specialized that they are deaf to the orchestral harmonies of life. Such criticism back in the 1940s along with many other voices has led to, hopefully, a greener education for today's college students.

But what is worse is that society at large has blinded itself by succumbing entirely to economic pressures resulting in a mismanaged planet rapidly losing its vegetable mold and replacing it with material luxuries. I suppose this kind of observation from the 1940s, unfortunately, still holds water today.  Leopold wittily remarks, "It might be wise to prohibit at once all teaching of real botany and real history, lest some future citizen suffers qualms about the floristic price of his good life." The real danger is that future generations will not even miss what we have willingly destroyed (say, by shooting Alaskan wolves from helicopters). Our real standard of living should be rooted in the total enjoyment of the changing seasons in the midst of America's woodlands or prairies. Here we can truly understand the value of wood as fuel, bird flight as poetry, and rustling leaves as music.

Leopold describes his experience in Wisconsin of cutting through a dead oak tree one February for firwood. As he cuts through the rings of years to the 1860s when the tree had its birth, he utilizes the occasion for commentary on America's tragic wastefulness of its natural resources: "Now our saw bites into the 1920s, the Babbittan decade when everything grew bigger and better in heedlessness and arrogance--until 1929, when the stock markets crumpled[sound familiar?] If the oak heard them fall, its wood gives no sign." His oak litany continues backward into the nineteenth century: "In September 1877, two brothers, shooting at Muskego Lake, bagged 210 blue-winged teal in one day...in 1875 four hunters killed 153 prairie chickens at York Prairie, one county to the eastward...in 1874 the first factory-made barbed wire was stapled to oak trees; I hope no such artifacts are buried in the oak now under saw! In 1873 one Chicago firm received and marketed 25,000 prairie chickens...in 1872 the last wild Wisconsin turkey was killed, two counties to the southwest." The scathing critique continues as his saw cuts deeper into the tree rings back to the time when the last native Wisconsin elk was killed.

Leopold suggests or rather admonishes the human race to re-establish its unity with its planet by becoming part of the changing seasons, part of the hills and prairies, and part of the farms and forests and not something preciously separate. Wild plovers should be respected for what they are and not for post-Vicyorian banquets. Silphium should not be a remnant plant that barely survives human conquest of Nature. Leopold wonders "what a thousand acres of Silphium looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked."

Though we are better housed, better fed, and better clothed and better "high-teched" than our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, we are deprived, Leopold believes, of our native and wild roots. Can we any longer appreciate areas like Clandeboye Marsh in Manitoba where yellow-legs walk a poem in the midst of this Pleistocene remnant? "Abraham," Leopold writes, "knew exactly what the land was for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham's mouth. At the present moment, the assurance with which we regard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education."

A Sand County Almanac is a book like Thoreau's Walden or Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire that should be read and re-read by all generations through the years as a counter-balance to the status-quo.

Wisconsin

© 2010 Richard Francis Fleck

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • juneaukid profile image
      Author

      Richard Francis Fleck 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      So true, Dolores. It restores the inner being even if the outer being resists.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Richard, I've heard of this book but have not read it. It is true that when we deprive ourselves of nature, we deny ourselves the true world. We used to go on a camping trip up north in the mountains every summer. We were on an island and the quiet serenity provided a spiritual retreat that kept me 'high' for some time. After a few short days, returning to the small town that was our base, I would feel odd and uncomfortable. My head could not adjust to the streets and buildings after spending even a short time in the woods by the lake. It was actually painful. We need nature.

    • juneaukid profile image
      Author

      Richard Francis Fleck 8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Granny's House!

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      june, another great hub. I love the deserts in AZ and Nevada. A lot of people think everything is dead there. I saw a lot of life. Someone has opened a sawmill across the road from my house. I hate it! Everyday I see all the trees that they have cut down. It makes me sick. Now I want to sell my home of 25 years. Great hub! Rated up

    • juneaukid profile image
      Author

      Richard Francis Fleck 8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Dohn and Hello, hello. We certainly need more primal thinking here in America not to mention Europe and elsewhere

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      I can only repeat dohn's words. He said it all. Yes, we could and could have learned from the Native Americans and if we wouldn't still big-headed we still can.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 8 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      Unfortunately, it seems that it is in our nature to be selfish and destructive towards our Mother Earth. How can we destroy what does not inherently belong to us? I think all of us can take some lessons from the Native Americans. I think they had it right all along.

      Thank you so much for sharing this. It pains me to hear this but know that it's a benefit to me as it reminds me about the importance of life and the conservation of nature.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)