Your three-question guide to Aldo Leopold
If you’re not familiar with the legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, he’s definitely someone worth knowing about. His concept of a “land ethic” laid the groundwork for the modern environmental movement—including the work of land trusts like Sycamore!
Here, Curt Meine—who literally wrote the book on Aldo Leopold and will be giving the keynote presentation at our Annual Celebration on October 23—answers a few key questions about Leopold and his legacy.
- What do you think is the most interesting or important thing about Aldo Leopold?
I have always been impressed by the depth and breadth of Leopold’s conservation thinking and experience, and his ability to communicate his scientific insight through his poetic voice. Those are the qualities that have kept his legacy alive and well and evolving, as we seek to meet new and emerging conservation challenges. He also is a unique in the way he can connect us across generations; his story links us back to the origins of American conservation, even while his concept of a “land ethic” is essential in helping us address contemporary and future needs. Finally, he was not content just to confront problems; he was always able to turn problem into opportunities, to respond with “skill and insight” to what for others could be paralyzing realities.
- What connection do you see between Aldo Leopold’s philosophy and land trusts?
Leopold was always involved in innovative ways to protect and take care of land. Although he spent the first part of his career primarily involved in managing public land, after moving back to the Midwest he became especially interested in developing new ways to bring people together to protect private land. Land trusts are one of the most important tools we have to do so now. When we look back on Leopold’s experience, we can see some interesting precedents to the work that land trusts now do. And like Sycamore Land Trust, Leopold worked in the Midwestern landscape, which presents its own particular opportunities and challenges.
- What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the conservation community today?
I suppose that beyond all the particular conservation challenges we could identify—involving climate, water, soil, biodiversity, food, energy, etc.—there is the same broad challenge: to reclaim the common ground that will allow us all to work together on solutions and to realize opportunities. Our ideas, institutions, and policies will need to change—and change can be hard! As I am fond of saying, we can dwell on the things that divide us, but we dwell within landscapes that connect us. To bring people together—and now especially to excite young people about being part of the next generation of conservation leaders—is a challenge we all share.
Hear more from Curt Meine about this extraordinary legacy at Annual Celebration!
Photos courtesy of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.