Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In the footsteps of Aldo Leopold

“Nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written’… It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.” – Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic (1949).

Last week I was challenged to delve deeper into my personal land ethic and reconsider the value of the natural world and my relationship with it.

Along with about 25 others, I participated in the AldoLeopold Foundation’s Land Ethic Leaders Program. It was a two-day program held at the Foundation, focusing on using observation, participation and reflection as methods to explore and deepen our connections to the land.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what I was getting myself into! Although I grew up on a farm and have worked on the tree farm and with woodland organizations for two years now, I still feel pretty “green.”

But as soon as the program began, all of my worries were eased. I was surrounded by a welcoming, accepting group. My classmates ranged from a 9th grade high school student, a stay-at-home mom from Seattle, an English professor, a student from Oxford, England, and professionals in wildlife and water conservation, just to name a handful. Much like me, many of us were struggling to really define or clarify our personal land ethics.

The goal of the program is to “enable community leaders across the country to create opportunities for rich and productive dialogue about humanity’s relationships to land, making room to meet people where they stand and building upon our common ground in conversation rather than in argument.”

Land Ethic Leaders, August 2012
At the end of the two-day program, I felt renewed and ready to take what I learned and engage with my community – including the Woodland Advocates I work with through My Wisconsin Woods and the school groups that visit the farm every year – in an ethics dialogue using observation, participation and reflection. I also felt a stronger connection to the land than I ever have before; the program certainly helped clarify my personal land ethic, but also validated that my land ethic won’t match anyone else’s, and that’s okay – I have a deep respect for any and all definitions of “land ethic,” and for the people who hold them.

I encourage anyone who loves the land, or has an interest in Leopold, or wants to get more involved in their community (however “community” may be defined) to consider participating in the program. Visit the Land EthicLeaders Program website to learn more. 

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