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Aldo Leopold

When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars of co-operation. The ecologist calls these symbi-
in Troy, hę hanged all on one ropc a dozen slave- oses. Politics and economics arę adyanced symbi-
girls of his Household w hora Iie suspccted of mis- oses in which the original free-for-atl competition
behavior during his absence. has been replaced, in part, by co-operative mech-
This hanging involved no question of propriety. anisms with an ethical content,
The girls were property. The disposal of property The complesity of co-operatiye mechanisms has
was then, as nów, a matter of expediency, not of increased with population density, and with the
right and wrong. cfiiciency of tcols. It was simpler, for example, to
Concepts of right and wrong were not lacking defme the anti-sociai uses.of sticks and stones.in
from Odysseus' Greece: witness the fidelity of his ' the days of the mastodons than of bullets and
wife through the long years before at last his black- billboards in the agę of motors.
prowed galleys c!ove the wine-dark seas fov home. The first ethics dealt with the relation between
The ethical structure of that day covered wives, individuals; the Mosaic Decalogue is an esample.
but had not yet been extended to human chattels. Later accretions dealt with the relation between
During the three thousand years which have since the individual and society. The Golden Rule tries
elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to to integrate the individual to society; democracy to
many fields o f conduct, with corresponding integratc social organization to the individual.
shrinkages in those judged by expediency only. There is as yet no ethic dealing with man's
relation to land and to the animals and plants
which grow upon it. Land, like Odysseus1 slave-
The Ethical Seąuence girls, is still property. The land-relation is still
strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obii-
This extension of ethics, so far studied only by gations.
philosophers, is actually a process in ecological The r::ter-sion of ethics to this third element in
evolution. Its sequences may be described in eco- human cnvironment is, if I read the eridence cor-
logical as well as in philosophical terms. An ethic, rectly, an evolutionary possibility and an ecological
ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in necessity. It is the third step in a seąuence. The
the struggle for existence. An ethic, philosophic- first two have already been taken. Individual
ally, is a differentiation of social from anti-social minkers since the days of Ezekiel and Isaiah have
conduct. These arę two definitions of one thing. asserted that the despoliation of land is not only
The thing has its origin in the tendency of inter- inexpedient but wrong. Society, however, has not
dependent individuals or groups to evolve modes yet affirmed their belief. I regard the present con-
The Land Ethic

servation moyement as the embryo of such an knows neither, and this is why his conquests even-
affirmation. tually defeat themselves.
An ethic may be regarded as a modę of guidance In the biotic community, a parallel situation
for meeting ecological situations so new or intri- exists. Abraham knew exactly what the land was
cate, or involving such deferred reactions, that the for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham's
path of social expediency is not discernible to the
average individual. Animal instincts arę modes of which we regard this assumption is inverse to the
guidance for the individual in meeting such situ- degree of'our education.
ations. Ethics arę possibly a kind of community The ordinary citizen today assumes that science
knows what makes the community clock tick; the
scientist is eąually surę chat hę does not. Hę knows
that the biotic mechanism is so complex that its
The Community Concept workings may never be fully understood.
That mań is, in fact, only a niember of a biotic
Ali ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: team is shown by an ecological interpretation of
that the individual is a member of a community history. Many historical events, hitherto explained
of interdependant parts. His instincts prompt him solely in terms of human enterprise, were actually
biotic interactions between people and land. The
but his ethics prompt him also to coopcrate (per- characteristics of the land determined the facts
haps in order that there may be a place to compete quite as potently as the characteristics of the men
for). who lived on it.
The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries Consider, for example, the settlement of the
of the community to include soils, waters, plants, Mississippi valley. In the years following the Revo-
and animals, or collectively: the land.
This sounds simple: do we not already sing our the native Indian, the French and English traders,
love for and obli galion to the land of the free and the and the American settlers. Historians wonder what
home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do would havc happened if the English at Detroit had
we love? Certainiy not the soil, which we arę send- thrown a little morę weight into the Indian side of
ing helter-skelter downriver. Certainly not the those tipsy scales which decided the outcorrie of the
waters, which we assume have no function except colonial migration into the cane-lands of Kentucky.
to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. It is time nów to ponder the fact that the cane-lands,
Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate when subjected to the particular mixture of forces
whole communities without batting an eye. Cer- represented by the cow, plow, fire, and axe of the
tainly not the animals, of which we have already pioneer, became bluegrass. What if the plant suc-
extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful ccssion inherent in this dark and. bloody ground •
species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the had, under the impact of these forces, given us
alteration, management, and use of these "re- some worthless sedge, shrub, or weed? Would
sources," but it does a f firm their right to cominued Boone and Kenton have held out? Would there
existence, and, at least in spots, their continued have been any overflow into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
existence in a natural state. and Missouri? Any Louisiana Purchase? Any trans-
In short a land ethic changes the role of Homo continental union of new states? Any Civil War?
sapiens from conąueror of the land-commnnity to
plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect tory. We arę commonly told what the human actors
for his fellow-members, and also respect for the in this drama tried to do, but we arę seldom told thac
community as such. their success, or the .łąck of it, hung in large degree
In human history, we have learned (I hope) that on the reaction of particular soils to the impact of the
the conqueror role is eventua!ly self-defeating. particular forces exerted by their occupancy. In the .
Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that case of Kentucky, we do not even know where the
the conąueror knows, ex cathedra, just what bluegrass came from - whether it is a native species,
makes the community clock tick, and just what or a stowaway from Europę.
and who is valuable, and what and ,who is worth- Contrast the cane-lands with what hindsight tells
>|ess, in community life. It always turns out that hę us about the Southwest, where the pioneers were
Aldo Leopold

eąually brave, resourceful, and persevering. The It is difficult to give a fair summary of its
impact of occupancy here brought no bluegrass, or content in brief form, but, as I understand it, the
other plant fitted to withstand the bumps arid buf- content is substantially this: obey the law, vote
fetings of hard use. This region, when grazed by right, join some organizations, and practice what
livestock, reverted through a series of morę and conservation is profitable on your own land; the
morę worthless grasses, shrubs, and weeds to a government will do the rest.
condition of unstable eąuilibrium. Each recession Is not this formuła too easy to accomplish
of plant types bred erosion; each increment to ero- anything worth-while? It defines no right or
sion bred a further recession of plants. The result wrong, assigns no obligation, calls for no sacrifice,
today is a progressive and mutual deterioration, not implies no change in the current philosophy of
only of plants and soils, but of the animal commu- values. In respect of land-use, it urges only en-
nity subsisting thereon. The early settlers did not lightened self-interest. Just how far will such edu-
expect this: on the cienegas of New Mexico some cation take us? An example will perhaps yield a
even cut ditches to hasten it. So subtle has been its partial answer.
progress that few residents of the region arę aware By 1930 it had become clear to all except the
l
of it. It is ąuite invisible to the tourist who finds this ecologically blind that southwestern Wisconsin's
• I wrecked landscape colorful and charming (as topsoil was slipping seaward. In 1933 the farmers
indeed it is, but ifbears scant resemblance to what were told that if they would adopt certain remedial
itwasin 1848). practices for five years, the public would donate
This same landscape was "developed" once CCC labor to install them, plus the necessary
before, but with ąuite different results. The machinery and materials. The offer was widely
Pueblo Indians settled the Southwest in pre- accepted, but the practices were widely forgotten
Columbian times, but they happened not to be when the five-year corttract period was up. The
eąuipped with rangę livestock. Their civilization farmers cnntinued only rhoce practices that yielded
expired, but not because their land expired. an immediate and visible economic gain for them-
In India, regions devoid of any sod-forming selves.
grass have been settled, apparently without This led to the idea that maybe farmers wbuld
wrecking the land, by the simple expedient of learn morę ąuickly if they themselves wrote th~ '
carrying the grass to the cow, rather than vice rules. Accordingly the Wisconsin'Legislature in
-yersa. (Was this the result of some deep wisdom, 1937 passed the Soil Conśervation District Law.
or was it just good luck? I do not know.) This said to farmers, in effect: We, the public, will
In short, tha plant succession steered the course furnish you free techmcal sernice and loan you spe-
of history; the pioneer simply demonstrated, for ciaUzed machinery, if you will write your own rules
good or ill, what successions inhered in the land. Is for land-use. Each county may write its own rules,
history taught in this spirit? It will be, once the and these will have the force of law. Nearly all the
concept of land as a community really penetrates counties promptly organized to accept the prof-
our intellectual life. fered help, but after a decade of operation, no
coumy has yet wńtten a single rule. There has be n
yisible progress m. such practices as stripcropping,
The Ecoiogical Conscience pasture renovation, and soil liming, but none in
fencing woodlots against grazing, and none in ex-
Conservation is a state of harmony between men cluding plow and cow from steep ^lopes. The
and land. Despite nearly a century of propaganda, farmers, in short, have selected those remedial
conservation still proceeds at a snaiPs pace; pro- practices which were profitable anyhow, and
grcss stiłl cońsists targely of ietterhead pieties anu igiiored those which were profitable to the com-
convention oratory. On the back forty we still slip . munity, but not clearly profitable to themselves.
two steps backward for each forward stride. When one asks why no rules have been written,
The usual answer to this dilemma is "morę one is told that the community is not yet ready to
conservation education." No one will debatę this, support them; education must precede rules. But
but is it certain that only the volume of education the education actually in progress makes no men-
needs stepping up? Is something lacking in the tion of obligations to land over and above those
content as well? dictated by self-interest. The net result is that we

(40)

HHIBHH l ,:.\
The Land Ethic

havc morę education but less soil, fewcr healthy value. Wildfiowcrs and songbirds arę examplcs. Of
\voods, and as many floods as in 1937. the 22,000 higher plants and animals native to
The puzzling aspect of such situations is that Wisconsin, it is doubtful whcther morc than 5
the existcnce of obligations ovcr and abovc per cent can be sold, fed, eatcn, or otherwise put
self-interest is taken for.granted in such rural com- to cconomic use. Yet these creatures arc members
munity enterprises as the betierment of roads, of the biotic community, and if (as l believe) its
schools, churches, and baseball teams. Their exist- stability depends on its integrity, they arę entitlcd
ence is not taken for grantcd, nor as yct scriously
discussed, in bettcring the bchavior of the When one of these non-cconomic catcgories is
water that falls on thc land, or in ihc preserving threatcned, and if we happen to love it, we invent
of the beauty or diversity o*~ thc farm kindscape. subterfuges to givc it cconomic impcrtance. At the
Land-use cthics arę still govcrned wholly uy beginning of the ccntury soiigsird: v. erę supposed
cconomic self-intercst, just as social cthics were a to bc disappearing. Ornithologists jumpcd to thc
century ago. rescue with somc distinctly shaky cvidence to
To sum up: we asked thc farmer to do what hę the cffect that insects would eat us up if birds failed
convenicntly could to save his soil, and lic has to control them. The evidence had to be economic
done just that, and only that. Thc farmer who ir. order to bcvalid.
clcars the woods olf a 75 per cent Ł',jpc, turns his It is pifrnful to read these circumlocution<; today.
cows into the clearing, ;.iid dumps its rainfall, We have no land ethic vet, but we havc at leasl
rocks, and soil into the community creek, is still drawn nearer thc point of admitting thyt birds
{if otherwise dccent) a respccted mcmber of soci- should continue as a mattcr of biotic right, regard-
ety. If hę puts limc on his fields and plants his less of the prcsence or absence of cconomic advan-
crops on contour, hc is still cntitlcd to all the tage to us.
privilcges and emoluments of his Soil Consma- A parallcl siiuation c\ists in respcct of predatory
tion District. The District is a beautifut piece of mammals, raptorial birds, and fish-cating birds.
social macliinery, but it is coughing along on rwo Time was whcn biologists somcwhat ovcr-worked
cylinders becausc we have been too timid, and too the cvidence thai thcsc creatures preserve the
anxióus for quick success, to ti".i ;hc farmer the !icalth of gr.mc by killing wcaklings, or fhat rhcy
truć magnitudc of his obligations. Obligations have ijontrol rodcnts for the farmer, or that .hey prey
no mcaning without conscicnce, and thc problem only on 'worthless' spccies. Herc again, thc cvi-
we facc is ihe cstension of the social conscicnce dence had to be economic in order to bc valid. It is
iroiii pc&plc .o Sa>*>i. oply ;n reccnt years that >'•" hear the morc honest
No important change in ethics was evcr argument that predators arc members of the
community, and that no special intercst has
intellectual emphasis, loyalities, affcctions, and the right to cxtcrminate them for thc sake of
convictions. Thc proof that conservation has not a bcnefit, real or fancied, to itself. Unfortunatcly
yct touchtd these foundations of conduct lics in this enlightuned view is still in the talk stagc. In
ihe fact that philosophy and religion havc not yet thc ficld thc extermination of predators goes mer-
heard of it. In our attempt to mąkę conscmtion rily on: witness the impendmg erasurc of ihe
casy, we havc madę it trivial. timbcr wolf by fiat of Congress, thc Conscrvation
Burcaus, and many state legislatures.
Somc spccies of trees havc been 'read out of thc
Substitmes for a Land ILthic party' by cconomics-minded forestcrs because
they grow too slowly, or havc too Iow a sale value
When the logie of history hungcrs for bread and to pay as timber crops: whitc cedar, lamarack,
we hand out a stone, we arę at pains to cxplain how cypress, beech, and hemlock arę examples. In
much thc stone rcsembles bread. I nów describe Europę, wherc forestr)' is ccologically morę ad-
somc of thc stones which serve in lieu of a land vanced, the non-commercial trec species arę rccog-
ethic. nized as members of ihe native forest community,
. One basie \veakness in a conscrvation system to bc presemd as such, within reason. Morcovcr
based wholly on economic motivcs is that most some (like beech) have been found to have a
members of thc land community have no cconom'ic valuable function in buildingup soil fertility. Thc
Aldo Leopold

interdependencc of the forest and its consiituent nity, hę today asscnts only with outstrctchcd palm.
tree species, ground flora, and fauna is taken for If thc act costs him cash this is fair and proper, but
grantcd. whcn it costs only foreihoughr, open-mindcdness,
Łąck of cconomic value is sometimes a character or time, the issue is at least debatablc. The over-
nor only of species or groups, but of entire biotic whelming growth of land-use subsidies in rcccnt
communities: marshes, bogs, duncs, and 'desens' ycars must be ascribcd, in large pan, to thc goy-
arę examples. Our formuła in such. cases is to ernment's own agencies for conscrvation educa-
tion: the land bureaus, thc agricultural colleges,
refuges, monuments, or parks. The difficulty is and the e.\tension scmces. As far as I can dctcct,
that thesc communities arę usually interspersed no cthical obligation toward land is taught in thesc
with morę valuablc private Jands; thc govcrnment . institutions.
cannot possibly own or contral such scattcrcd par- To sum up: a system of conservation based
cels. Tlić net cffect is that we have relegated somc solely on cconomic sclf-intcrcst is hopelcssly lop-
of them to ultimate extinction ovcr large areas. If sidcd. It tends to ignore, and thus evcntually to
the privatc owncr were ccologically minded, hę eliminatc, many clements in thc land community
would be proud to bc the custodian of a reasonable that łąck commcrcial valuc, but that arc (as far as
proportion of such arcas, whicli add diversity and we know) cssential to its healthy functioning. It
assumcs, falsely, I think, that the economic parts of
In somc instanccs, the assumcd łąck of profit in the biotic clock will function without the uneco-
thcse 'waste' arcas has provcd to be wrong, but nomic parts. It tends to rclegate to govcrnment
only after most of thcm had been done away with. many functions cvcntually too large, too complex,
The prcscnt scramblc to rcflood muskrat marshes or too widely dispersed to bc performcd by gov-
is a casc in point. ernment.
There is a clcar tcndency in American conser- Ań cthical obligation on the part of the private
vation to rclegate to government all necessary jobs owncr is thc only visible remedy for thcse situations.
that private landowners fail to pcrform. Govcrn-
mcnt owncrship, operation, subsidy, or rcgulation
is nów widclj' prcvalcnt in forcstry, rangc manage- The Land Pyramid
mcnt, soil and watershcd managcmcnt, park and
wildcrncss conservation, fisheries management, Ań ethic to supplement and guide the economic
and migratory bird management, with morę to rclation to land presupposes the esistcnce of some
comc. Most of this growth in governmcntal conscr- mcntal imagc of land as a biotic mcchanism. We
vation is proper and logical, somc of it is incvitable. can be ethical only in relation to something we can
That I imply no disapproval of it is implicit in thc sce, feel, understand, lovc, or otherwise havc faith
fact that I have spent most of my life working for it.
Nevcrtheless the ąucstion arises: What is the ultim-
ate magnitudc of thc cnterprisc? Will the tax base cducation is 'thc balancc of naturę.' For rcasons
carry its cvcntual ramifications? At what point.will too lengthy to detail herc, this figurę of speech fails
governmcnt,il • conservation, likc the mastodon, to describe accurately what little we know about
become handicapped by its own dimensions? The the land mcchanism. A mucli truer image is the
answer, if there is any, secms to be in a land ethic, or one employed in ccology: the biotic pyrarnid. I
shall first sketch thc pyramid as a symbol of land,
the private landowner. and later devclop some of its implications in terms
Industrial landowncrs and users, especially lum- of land-use.
bcrmcn and stockmen, arę inclincd to wail long Plants absorb encrgy from the suń. This energy
and loudly about the extension of govcrnment flows through a circuit callcd the biota, which may
ownership and regulation to land, but (with be representcd by a pyramid consisting of layers.
notable cxceptions) they show little disposition to The bottom layer is thc soil. A plant layer rests on
develop thc only visible alternativc: the voluntary the soil, an insect layer on the plants, a bird and
practice of conservation on their own lands. rodent layer on the insects, and so on up through
When the private landowner is asked to perform various animal groups to the apex layer, which
some unprofitable act for the good of the commu- consists of the larger carnivores.
The Land Etnie

The species of a laycr arc alike not in wherc they flow of sap in a trec depends on its complej;
camc from, or in what thcy look Hkc, but rather in ccllular organization. Without this complcxity,
\vhai they cat. Each successivc laycr dcpcnds on normal circulation would prcsumably not occur.
chosc below it for food and oftcn for olher scrvices, Structure rneans thc characteristic numbcrs, ns
\vell as the characteristic kinds and functions, of
those above. Procccding upward, each successive the component species. This interdcpendcnce be-
laycr decrcases in numcrical abundancc. Thus, for tween the cornplcx structure of the land and its
cvery carnivore there arę hundreds of his prey, smooth functioning as an energy unii is one of its
thousands of thcir prcy, millions of insccts, un- basie attributcs.
countablc plants. The pyramidnl form of thc When a changc occurs in one part of the circuit,
system reflccts this numerical progression from many other parts must adjust thcmsclves to it.
apex to basc. Man sharcs an intermediate layer Change does not nccessarily obstruct or divcrt
\vith thc bears, raccoons, and sąuirrels which cat thc flow of cnergy; evolution is a long series of
both meat and vegetablcs. sclf-induccd changes, the net result of which has
The lines of dependency for food and other been to elaborate the flow mechanism and to
services arę called food chains. Thus soif-oak- lengthen the circuit. Evolutionary changes, how-
cvcr, arę usually slow and local. Man's invention of
converied to soil-corn-cow-farmer. Each species, tools has cnabled him to mąkę changes of unpre-
inctuding ourselvcs, is a link in many chains. The cedented violcnce, rapidiry, and scope.
deer cats a hundred plants other rhan oak, and thc One change is in the composition of floras and
cow a hundred plants other than corn. Both, then, faunas. Thc largcr predators arę lopped off thc
apex of thc pyramid; food chains, for the first
langle of chains so complex as to secm.disordcrly, time in history, become shorter rather than longcr.
yetthestabilityof t hę system proves i t tobeahighly Domesticated species from other lands arę substi-
organizcd structurc. Its functioning depends on tuted for wild oncs, and wild ones arc rnovcd to
the co-operatibn and compctition of its divcrsc new hahitats. In this \vorld-widc pooling of faunas
parts. and floras, some species get out ofbounds as pests
In thc bcginning, thc pyramid of life was Iow and diseascs, othcrs arę cxtinguished. Such cffects
and sąuat; the food chains short and simplc. Evo- arę scldom intcnded, or forcseen; .they represent
lution has added layer after layer, link after link. unprcdictcd and oftcn untraceable rcadjustmcńtś
Man is one of thousands of accrctions to thc height in thc structurc. Agricultural scicncc is largely a
race between thc cmergcncc of ncw pcsts and thc
us many doubts, but it has givcn us at least one emergcnce of new techniąucs for their control.
certainty: thc trend of evolulion is to elaboratc and Another changc touchcs the flow of energy
diversify the biota. through plants and animals and its return to the -
Land, then, is not mercly soil; it is n foumain of soil. Fertility is thc ability of soil to rcceivc, storę,
1
energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and rclease cnerg) . Agriculture, by overdTafts on
and animals. Food chains arę thc livjng channels thc soil, or by too radical a suhstitution of domestic
which conduct encrgy upward; denth and decay for native species in the superstructurc, may de-
return it to thc soil. The circuit is not closcd; some rangc thc channels of flow or deplete storage. Soils
cnergy is dissipated in dccay, some is added by depleted of thcir storage, or of thc organie matter
absorption from the air, some is storcd m soils, which anchors it, wash away faster than they form.
pcats, and long-lived forests; but it is a sustained
circuit, like a slowly augmentcd rcvolving fund of Waters, like soil, arc part of the cnergy circuit.
life. There is always a net loss by downhill wasłr, Industry, by polluting \vaters or obstructing them
but this is normally smali and offset by thc decay \vith dams, may excludc the plants and animals
of rocks. It is depositcd in the ocean and, in thc nccessary to Vccp energy in circulatipn.
course of geological timc, raiscd to form ncw lands Transportation brings about another basie
and new pyramids. changc: the plants or animals grown in one region
i The Yelocity and character of thc upward flow arc no\v consumcd and returncd to thc soil in
j. pf energy depend on the complex structure of thc another. Transportation taps the energy stored in
£ plant and animal community, much as thc upward rocks, and in the air, and uses it elscwhcre; thus we
fertilize the garden with nitrogen gleancd by tlić tlić effcct of advanced wastage. In the United
guano birds from the fishes of seas on the other States the degree of disorganization varies locally;
side of the Eąuator. Thus the formcrly localized it is worst in the Southwest, the Ozarks, and parts
and self-contained circuits arę pooled on a world- of the South, and least in New England and the
widc scalę. Northwest. Bertcr land-uscs may still arrest ii in
The proccss of altering the pyramid for humań the less advanced regions. In parts of Mexico,
occupation rcleases stored encrgy, and this often South America, Soudi Africa, and Australia a vic~
gives rise, during the pioneering period, to a de- Icnt and accelerating wastage is in progress, but I
ceptive exuberancc of plant and animal lifc, both cannot assess the prospects.
wild and tamę. Thesc releascs of biotic capital tend This almost world-wide display of disorganiza-
to becloud or postponc the pcnalties of violencc.
This thumbnail skctch of land as an cncrgy animal, cxccpt that it never culminatcs in complete
cireuit conveys three basie ideas: disorganization or death. The land recovers, but at
some rcduced lcvel of complexity, and with a
(1) That land is not merely soil. reduccd carrying capacity for people, plants, and
(2) That the nativc plants and animals kept the animals. Many biotas currently regarded as 'lands
encrgy circuit open; others may or may not. of opportunity' arę in fact alrcady subsisting on
(3) That man-made changes arc of a diffcrcnt cxploitative agriculture, i.e. they have already
order than cvolutionary changes, and have CKceeded thcir sustained carrying capacity. Most
effccts morę eomprehensiye than is intcnded of South America is overpopulated in this sense.
In arid regions we attempt to offset the process
of wastage by rcclamation, but it is only too evi-
These ideas, collectively, raise two basie issues: dent that the prospectivc longcvity of reclamation
Can the land adjust itself to the ncw order? Can projccts is often short. In our own West, the bcst
the dcsired alterations be accompKshcd with less of them may not !ast a century.
yióience? The combincd cvidcnce of history and ccology
Biotas seem to differ in thcir capacity to sustain sccrns to support one generał dcduction: the less
rioleni conversion. Western Europę, for cxample, violent the mnnmade changes, ihc greatcr the prob-
carries a far different pyramid than Caesar found ability of succcssful rcadjustment in the pyramid.
Yiolence, in tum, varics with human population
have bccome mcadows or plow-land; many new density; a dense population reąuires a morę violent
plants and animals arc introduced, some of which convcrsion. In this respcct, North America has a
escapc as pcsts; ihc remaining natives arę grcatly bettcr chancc for permanence than Europę, if shc
changcd in distribunon and abundancc. Yct the soil can contrive to limit licr density.
is still Uiere and, with the help of importcd nutri- This dcduction runs coimtcr to our current
ents, still fertile; the watcrs flow normally; the new philosophy which assumcs that because a smali
structure seems to function and to persist. There is
no visible stoppage or derangemcnt of the circuit. indefinite increase will enrich it indefinitely. Ecol-
Western Europę, thcii, has a rcsistant biota. Its ogy knows of no density relationship that holds for
inncr proccsses arc tough, clastic, rcsistant to indefmitely wide limiis. Al! gains from density arę
strain. No mattcr how violent the alterations, the subject to a law of diminishing returns.
pyramid, so far, has dcvcloped some ncw modus Whatcvcr may be the cąuation for men and land,
vivendi which prcservcs its habitability for mań, it is improbnble that we as yet know all its tcrms.
and for most of the othcr natiyes. Recent discovcries in minerał and \
Japan seems to present another instancc of rad- reveal unsuspected depcndencics i up-circuit:
ical convcrsion without disorganization. incrcdibly minutę quantities of ce substanccs
Most other civitizcd regions, and some as yer determine the value of soils to pla , of plants to
barely touchcd by civilization, display various animals. What of the down-circuit What of the
stages of disorganization, varying from initial vanishing specics, ihc prescrvation of which we
nów regard as an esthctic Iuxury? Thcy helpcd
and North Africa diagnosis is confuscd by climatic build the soil; in what unsuspected ways may they
changes, which may have been either the cause or be esscntial to its maintenancc? Profcssor Wcavcr
The Land Ethic

proposes that we use prairie flowers 10 reflocculate raritics, likc trumpetcr swan and whooping crane?
thc wasting soils of the dust bowl; who knows for Can managcment principlcs bc extcndcd to wild-
what purpose crancs and condors, otters and flowers? Herę agaln it is clear to me that we have the
grizzlies may somc day be used? same A-B,cleavage as in forestry.
In the larger field of agriculture I am less com-
petcnt to speak, but thcre seem to be somcwhat
Land Health and the A-B Cleavage parallel cleavages. Scientific agriculture was ac-
tively developing before ecolog>- was born, hence
A land cthic, then, reflects the esistence of an a slower pcnetration of ccologica! conccpts might
ecological conscicnce, and this in tum rcflccts a be expected. Moreovcr the farmer, by the very
convicrion of individual responsibility for the naturę of his tcchniques, must modify thc biota
health of the land. Health \s the capacity of the morę radically than the foresler or the wildlife
land for self-rencwal. Conscrvation is our effort to manager. Nevertheless, there arc many discontents
understand and prcserve this capacity. in agriculture which 'seem to add up to a new
Conscrvationists arę notorious for thcir dissen- vision of 'biotic farming.1
sions/Superficially thesc secm to add up to mcrc Pcrhaps the most important of thcse is thc ncw
oinfusion, but a morę careful scrutiny reveals a cvidence that poundage or tonnagc is no measure
single pianę of cleavagc common to tnany spccial- of the food-value of farm crops; the products of
izcd fields. In each field one group (A) regards thc fertile soil may be qualitativcly as wcll as quantita-
land as soil, and its function as commodity-pro- tivcly superior. We can bolster poundage from
duction; another group (B) rcgards thc land as a dcplctcd soils by pouring on importcd fcrtility,
biota, and its function as something broader. How bm we arę not necessarily bolstering food-value.
much broader is admittcdly in a state of doubt and The possiblc ultimate ramifications of this idea arę
confusion. so immense rhat I must lcavc thcir exposition to
In my own field, forestry, group A is ąuitc abler pens.
content to grow irces like cabbages, with cellulose Thc discontent that labcls itself 'organie
as the basie forcst commodity. Ir feels no inhib- farming,' while bearing somc of thc earmarks of a
ition against violencc; its idcology is agronomie. cult, is ncyertheless biotic in its direction, particu-
Group B, on the othcr hand, secs forestry as fun- larly in its insistence on thc imporlance of soil flora
damentally different from agronomy because it and fauna.
employs naiural spccics, and manages a natural The ccological fundamcntals of agriculture arc
just as poorly known to ihc public as in othcr fields
of land-use. For examplc, fcw'cducated people
principle. It worrics on biocic as \vell as economic realizc that thc mar v cło us advanc.cs i n tcchniąue
grounds about the loss of species likc chestnut, and madę during rccent decadcs arc improvcmcnts in -
the thrcatencd loss of the whitc pincs. It worries the pump, rather than thc wcll. Acrc for acre, thcy
about a whole series of sccondary forest functions: have barcly sufficed to offset thc sinking level of
wildlife, recrcation; watcrshcds, wildcrness arcas. fertility.
To my mind, Group B fccls the stlrrings of.an In all of thcse cleavagcs, we sec repcated the
ecological consciencc. same basie paradoxcs: mań thc conąueror wrsus
In thc wildlife field, a parallel cleavagc exists. For mań the biotic citizen; scicncc the sharpener of his
Group A thc basie commodities arę sport and meat; sword versns sciencc thc scarch-light on his uni-
the yardsticks of production arc ciphers of take in vcrse; land the slave and servant remis land the
pheasamsandtrout.Artificialpropagationisaccept-; collective organism. Robinson's injunction to
able as a pcrrnanent as \vcll as a temporary rccourse - Tristram may wcll hę appliecl, at this juncture, to
if its unit costs pcrmit. Group B, on thc othcr hand, Homo saptfiii as a species in gcological dmę:
worrics about a wholc series of biotic side-issucs.
What is the cost in prcdators of producing a gamę Whether you will or not
crop? Should we have furthcr recourse to exotics? You arę a King, Tristram, for you arę one
How can managcment restorc the shrinking species, Of the timc-tested fcw that leave the world,
likc prairie grousc, already hopeless as shootable Whcn thcy arę gone, not the same place it was.
• gamę? How can managcment restore the threatened Mark what you lcavc.
economic problem. Examine cach ąucstion in
The Outlook tcrms of what is ethically and csthetically right,
as well as what is economically expedient. A thing
It is inconceivable to me chat an cthical rclation to is right whcn it tcnds to prcserve thc intcgrity,
land can exist without lovc, rcspcct, and admir- stability, and bcauty of thc biotic community. It is
ation for land, and a high rcgard for its value. By wrong wlien it tends othcrwisc.
It of course gocs without saying that economic
merę economic value; I mean valuc in thc philo- feasibility limits the tcther of what can or cannot
sophical sensc. be donc for land. It always has and it always will.
Pcrhaps the most serious obstacle impcding the The fallacy the economic detcrminists have tied
cvolution of a land cthic is the fact rhat our cduca- around our collective neck, and which we nów
tional and economic system is hcadcd away from, need to cast off, is the belief that economics detcr-
mines all landuse. This is simply not true. An
land. Your truć modern is scparated from the innumcrable host of actions and attitudes, com-
land by many middlemcn, and by innumcrable prising pcrhaps the bulk of all land rdations, is
physical gadgets. Hę had no vi tal relation to it; to determined by the land-users' tastcs and prcdilcc-
him it is the space bctween cities on which crops tions, rathcr than by his purse. Thc bulk of a!l land
grow. Turn him loosc for a day on the land, and if rclations hinges on invc5tments of time, forc-
the spot does not happen to be a golf links or a thought, skill, and fflith rather than on invesimcnts
'scenie' area, hę is borcd stiff. If crops could be of cash. As a land-uscr thinketh, so is hę.
raised by hydroponics instead of farming, it would I havc purposcly prcscntcd the land utnie as a
suit him very well. Synthetic substitutes for wood, product of social cYolution because nothing so
leather, wool, and other natura! land products suit important as an ethic is ever 'written.' Only the
him better than the originals. In short, land is most supcrficial student of history supposes that
something lic has 'outgrown.' Moses 'wrote' the Decalogue; it 'evolvcd in the
Almost cąually serious as an obstacle to a land
cthic is the attitudc of thc farmer for whom the
land is still an adversary, or a taskmastcr that keeps say tcntativc because cvolution never stops.
him in slavery. Thcorctically, thc mcchanization of The cvolution of a land ethic is an intcllcc-
farming ought to nit the farmcr's chains, but tual as wcll as emorional process. Conservation is
whethcr it rcally does is debatable. paved with good intentions which prove to be
One of the requis!tes for an ccological compre- futile, or even dangerous, because they arę devóid
hension of land is an undcrstnndingofccology, and of critical understanding cither of thc land, or of
this is by no mcans co-extcnsivc with 'education'; in economic land-use. I think it is a truisrn that as
fact, much higher education seems delibcrately to the ethical frontier advances from thc indiv-
avoid ecological concepts. An understanding of idual to the community, its intellectuaf contcnt
ccology does not neccssarily originatc in courses incrcases.
bearing ecological labcls; it is ąuite as likely to be The mechanism of operation is thc same for any
labeled gcograpliy, botany, agronomy, history, or ethic: social approbation for right actions: social
cconomics. This is as it should bc, but \vhatcver thc disapproval for wrong actions.
label, ecological training is scarcc. By and largc, our prescnt problem is one of
The casc for a land ethic would appcar hopeless attitudes and implcmcnts. We arę remodeling the
but for the minority which is in obvious rcvolt Alhambra with a steamshovel, and we arę proud of
against these 'modern 1 trends. our yardage. We shall hardly rclinquish the shovel,
The 'kcy-log' which must be moved to releasc which after all has many good points, but we arę in
thc evolutionary process for an cthic is simply this: need of gentlcr and morę objective criteria for its
quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an successful use.