Applying Leopold’s Land Ethic

16 03 2011

You are part of a fifth-generation family who have lived on the same land in Wisconsin since the 1800’s.  Because you most closely shared your father’s values toward this land, he had made you the fifth holder of the land trust to maintain this 100 acres of land.  The land includes a perimeter of about 40 acres of secondary forest that was selectively timbered in the 1940’s interspersed with some prairie and savanna communities; and, an inner core of old-growth forest, never timbered.  Your land is surrounded by a combination of agricultural and expanding residential land.  Your father had allowed neighbors limited hunting and cutting of firewood from fallen trees, but with increasing population moving in you are contemplating how best to manage your inheritance.  Based on completion of DesJardins’ Ch. 8, contribute your response to one of the following of your choice while avoiding redundancy if someone has already commented on it:

1.  Ecological considerations pertinent to deciding how to ethically care for your inheritance.
2.  Your reaction to an ethical holism in which moral standing is based upon the “natural state” and “stability, complexity, health” of the land.
3.  Present the logic used by a neighbor who believes that you are an “environmental fascist.”
4.  Defend  your “Leopold land ethic” and the land trust concept when the neighbor in #3. above applies a spray paint message: “fascist.”
5.   Explain how Callicott’s ethics might aid your use of the “land ethic” but also is vulnerable to criticism

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4 responses

17 03 2011
Lindsay Jones

In considering Callicott’s ethics, I might decide to keep the forest because of an emotional attachment I have to it. This attachment may be because I remember playing in the forest as a child, and thus want to keep it as is for my own children. Or I might recall how my father and grandfather valued the protection of that forest, and thus the forest has familial ties, and as a result I value the protection of that forest as well. On the other hand, my family may be in financial trouble and therefore, despite the familial ties I have with the land, the needs of my family takes precedence over the needs of the land. DesJardins points out that “sentiments are a notoriously unstable foundation on which to build an ethics” (p. 196). This is where the problem begins; when the decision comes down to two important, equally right and good solutions. Deciding between these two solutions gets to the heart of determining how we ought to live, the essence of ethics. How do we know when our sentience is wrong, and should we always give precedence to holism? In summary, how I decide to use my land basically comes down to individualism and holism; whether or not my family or the good of the community is more important to me.

17 03 2011
Jon Becker

There are several ecological considerations when deciding how to care for my inheritance. There are several beneficial aspects that this land would provide to the ecosystem, especially in light of the surrounding land. First, my family land provides an “island” of untouched land in the increasing “sea” of urbanization. This is important as it preserves native species against the constant change of the surrounding areas. Second, this land is probably important in controlling some of the erosion caused by the agricultural and urban land that is in the surrounding area. Third, it can provide a necessary haven for the wildlife of the area. The final issue is how to deal with the neighbors limited hunting and cutting of firewood. These are necessary activities to maintain the ecosystem of the land, but they must be regulated carefully to avoid overuse. Perhaps this use could be limited to certain families of neighbors who have proven responsible in the past, preventing possible damage.

17 03 2011
Rebekah Jones

Neighbors and friends could have negative reactions to the managing of your land on an ethical holism basis. One reaction could be the accusation that you are being fascist and not sharing your wealth and land in the community. They could think that the land is there for all of our uses and that limiting its use is controlling and limiting the freedom that we have to get resources from the earth. They might also think that you are more concerned about your land than your neighbors who may depend or rely on what your forests and other land can provide. They may then see this as a break up and dividing of the community. They may wonder why you care for plants and animals that they see as abundant and that can always grow back. They could also have issue with you because they see nature as something to be dominated because of what they see in Genesis and they might also not value it at all because they think that it will just pass away when the Lord returns and burn up anyway.

18 03 2011
Heidi Edwards

Holisim is the idea that something is good if it benefits the “biotic community” and bad if it does not. This is a very broad statement that allows for a lot of variation. The moral standing of the “biotic community” is based on its natural state and its stability, complexity, and health. So a benefit to a community would include returning plants to it that naturally would grow there or anything that would be “healthy” for it. Since the ecosystem is always changing it is hard to determine what is best for. With all the criticisms of Leopold’s land ethic it is difficult to imagine what a perfect moral guide for the way we treat the land could be. Basically, Leopold is calling for is for individual people to learn to have an attitude of respect, love, and admiration for the land. This attitude will help individuals make wise decisions about the land. If everyone would strive to have this attitude the community of individuals would be better equipped to treat the land in a way that would be beneficial for the biotic community.

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