Aldo Leopold's Manifesto on Environmental Ethics in the Land Ethic

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Ethics are the key component in human advancement. Without ethics, the world would be disorganized and very dangerous. Ethics are moral principles of right and wrong; this then helps everyone in a given community to be treated with respect. American ecologist Aldo Leopold was well-known for spreading land ethic awareness. With climate change being such an issue now, we must all learn about the Aldo Leopold’s environmental ethics and take them into consideration.

Most ethics only take human beings into consideration. However, Aldo Leopold’s land ethic takes account for every form of life. As a result, land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of our community of land and nature. When we sing the American national anthem, we’re essentially showing our respect for this “land of the free'' and “home of the brave” country. Nonetheless, we’re most likely showing love for the human beings in America. From Aldo Leopold’s perspective, humans shouldn’t be the only living beings we show love for. We should look at the bigger picture like our country’s soil, water, plants, animals, or collectively: the land. Land ethic educates human beings that they’re not the most important species on their planet, but that they are equal to all other forms of life. Land ethic implies respect for man’s fellow members, and also respect for the community as such. Leopold also supports his land ethic theory with a land pyramid. The land pyramid makes up every visible, tangible natural thing on earth. Nonetheless, the higher the pyramid category, the more dominant the specific group is. Every successive pyramid layer depends on those below it for food and often other services. In turn, each pyramid layer furnishes food and services to those above. Omnivores, including Homo sapien, are placed at the highest category of the pyramid and soil at the very bottom. From an evolutionary perspective, every single land pyramid layer depends on one another. Plants need soil, cows eat grass, humans eat cows, etc. This is known as carrying capacity, where each pyramid layer needs a certain abundance in order to keep above layers alive. Mankind unthoughtful takes advantage of everything though. One big example of this is construction and how it destroys plants and forests (home to many animals). Humans cause all of this destruction toward nature just to build another company building for profit. Generally, Homo sapien fails at thinking about how negative impact of the environment can also indirectly harm themselves in the long run.

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Climate change, mostly caused by man, is notably the worst form of destruction toward the environment. As I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph, humans love to build companies and factories for profit. The more companies and factories that are built, the less forests and wildlife there are. Buildings also use up to 41% of the entire world’s energy (Boss, 2019). This is due to the huge amounts of electricity buildings use. In the U.S., buildings account for 73% of the country’s electricity consumption (Boss, 2019). More electricity consumption will result in more fossil fuels being burnt, hence resulting in greenhouse gas emissions that will trap more heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Climate change is also strongly affecting our own species as well. The rise in temperature, sealevel, extreme storms, etc all threaten our health affecting the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink (EPA, 2017). Scientists project that warmer temperatures from climate change will increase the frequency of days with unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone, a harmful air pollutant, and a component in smog (EPA, 2017). In addition, the higher concentrations of ozone due to climate change may result in tens to thousands of additional ozone-related illnesses and premature deaths per year by 2030 in the United States, assuming no change in projected air quality policies (EPA, 2017). Climate change also affects our drinking water by exposing waterborne pathogens. These waterborne pathogens are greatly exposed when overall temperature rises. Finally, climate change can affect our nutrition. Since bacteria grows quicker at higher temperatures, this is a major concern. Higher sea surface temperature will also lead to higher mercury concentrations in seafood (EPA, 2017).

Leopold’s Land Ethic, if followed, will definitely have a positive impact on Climate Change. As I’ve mentioned before, Leopold’s Land Ethic is being more aware of everything natural in our surrounding environment. This includes nature and fellow animals. As you read in my previous paragraph, the Homo Sapien species on average has done an awful job on this. Humans only care about one thing, consuming. Enough is never enough for the Homo Sapien species. As a result, we will do anything to obtain another asset or profit. This means we’ll go out of the way to burn down forests (home to many other living species) just to replace it with new business buildings. The Homo Sapien species not only fails at taking other forms of life into consideration, but fails to realize they’re slowly killing fellow humans as well. The more industrialization and construction, the more carbon dioxide and other cancerous air pollutants emitted in the air. From personal experience and statistics, we can definitely see this issue with the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, specifically Tempe and Downtown. Living in the ASU-Tempe area for three years now, the city won’t stop with the meaningless construction.Because of all this illogical construction, I can definitely tell that my asthma and respiratory health is worse living in the Phoenix area. Even though Phoenix doesn’t have that many forests, it’s still going against Leopold’s Land Ethic theory because construction harms the environment and produces climate change in general. Since all this emitted pollutants caused by industrialization is harmful for human’s respiratory systems, it goes against Leopold’s Land Ethic because Homo Sapien is still part of nature’s creation. If most people, if not the whole Homo Sapien species, were following Leopold’s Land Ethic, Climate Change could easily be changed. Sure, some parts of climate change are uncontrollable. However, most of it was caused by the human race. The industrialization for profit, laziness to recycle, laziness to not litter, all go against Leopold’s Land Ethic and worsen Climate Change. Of course though, it’s unrealistic to encourage such an egocentric species to be content with what we already have and follow Land Ethic to reduce Climate Change. It’s also bizarre that our species has the ability to form complex thoughts; however, we still happen to be the laziest.

All in all, it’s really not that hard to make a positive change by following Leopold’s Land Ethic, especially since we’re one of the most intelligent species. If us humans are able to industrialize non-stop, we certainly have the ability to make a difference in Climate Change. All Land Ethic is asking for is to take the Earth as a whole into consideration, and every natural living and non-living organism in it. We’ve come to a point where if we don’t follow Leopold’s Land Ethic now, our Earth will rot. We must protect our one home and everything natural organism in it.  

Works cited

  1. Leopold, A. (1949). A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press.
  2. Callicott, J. B. (Ed.). (2013). The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold. University of Wisconsin Press.
  3. Meine, C., & Knight, R. L. (Eds.). (2016). The Essential Aldo Leopold: Quotations and Commentaries. University of Wisconsin Press.
  4. Baird Callicott, J. (2015). Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac. Oxford University Press.
  5. Santmire, H. P. (2013). The Travail of Nature: The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology. Fortress Press.
  6. Stevens, P. (2016). Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic: New Meanings in a New Millennium. Oxford University Press.
  7. Curry, P. (2019). Ecological Ethics: An Introduction. Polity Press.
  8. Taylor, P. W. (2016). Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics. Princeton University Press.
  9. Brennan, A. (2015). Environmental Ethics: An Overview for the Twenty-First Century. Wiley.
  10. Palmer, C. (2018). Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy. New World Library.

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