Taylor Jahner's Reviews > A Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
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Dec 06, 2010

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Taylor Jahner
Sand County Almanac Book Review

Aldo Leopold is one of the most interesting people in terms of his life’s work and experiences along the way. A man that wrote with such fascinating prose and beautiful literary devices yet was a huge supporter of getting away from book learning and being hands on, especially with nature. Leopold was a very strong advocate for ethical treatment of land and actually devotes an entire part of his book to this cause. He was also one of the largest and most influential leaders in the conservation movement, which is a very large problem facing the earth today.
One of the most defining moments in the book, and in Leopold’s life, I feel is the moment as a ranger in New Mexico when he saw a wolf and her cubs on the mountainside. Without a moment’s hesitation he pulled up and shot the mother wolf as the cubs scattered. He did this because wolves eat deer and hunters want more deer to populate the area. However when he walked up to the wolf and saw the “fierce green fire dying in her eyes (129),” he became aware of what he was doing and how wrong it was. He was disturbing the natural way of life on the mountain. The mountain grows grass, the deer eat the grass, and the wolves eat the deer. If there are not enough wolves, the deer become overpopulated and overgraze and essentially kill the mountain. This all became clear to Leopold as he started to change his thinking a bit.
Through Leopold’s work outdoors, as a Forest Ranger and especially at “The Shack” in Wisconsin, he brings a very personal view of nature to the reader. He has seen firsthand how progress was destroying nature and how something had to be done in order to save it. The Shack was a rundown farmhouse in Wisconsin where the once forested region had been used for logging, then overgrazed by cattle, and is now a barren, sandy plain. This is where Leopold put his ideas to the test of rehabilitating the area to what it once was in its prime. I feel like this I a perfect example of something small that everyone can do. Instead of everyone trying to industrialize and mold their homes into something it’s not; turn it into what it once was. Plant trees, bushes, and grass instead of pouring concrete and building sheds and fences. Leopold was able to do this in an area completely separated from its previous glory.
Leopold uses personification in his writing to the utmost extent in order to help humans realize what is out there. If a human can see a flower or a fish as something like themselves with thoughts and emotions, they are much more likely to care for it. This was Leopold’s way of conservation, to see everything as equal and belonging.
Leopold sees everything as important and beautiful. One of his sketches is on a small plant at the shack called Draba. This plant could not be seen unless you were on the ground, yet it was completely independent of anyone or anything. It was able to re-bloom on its own and was rather pretty if you were careful enough to look for it. But more than that, this was a living thing and should be treated like one. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may be, it is still a living creature. This is how Leopold lived his life, with nature constantly on his mind regardless of purpose.
To Leopold nature was not something we lived in, it was something we should be living with. For years he pushed to start to preserve and conserve what we had left and was one of the founders of the Wilderness Society as well as establishing a precedent for National Parks. Something Leopold preached and practiced during his life is how harmony between people and nature is what conservation is all about. This is still applicable today and should probably be taken much more seriously.

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