ExploreShaping the land › Toward a land ethic

Practicing a land ethic in Northeast Ohio

Community: Student naturalist from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History with a spotted salamander.

In his seminal 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, wildlife conservationist Aldo Leopold advanced the concept of the “land ethic.” He wrote: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

The land ethic requires us to have an expanded view of rights and responsibilities. As Leopold wrote, the land ethic “enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land...[and it] changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."

How strong is our land ethic in Northeast Ohio? After more than 200 years of radically reshaping the territory of the Western Reserve, how connected are we to the land-community? How many of our actions preserve or restore the integrity of nature?

We’ll use this space to explore such questions in the coming months.

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.
— Aldo Leopold

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