4. Aldo Leopold and the Land Ethic

An Argument for Sustaining Soils

  1. Thomas J. Sauer2,
  2. John M. Norman3 and
  3. Mannava V. K. Sivakumar4
  1. Susan L. Flader

Published Online: 7 JUN 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470960257.ch4

Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics

Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics

How to Cite

Flader, S. L. (2011) Aldo Leopold and the Land Ethic, in Sustaining Soil Productivity in Response to Global Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Ethics (eds T. J. Sauer, J. M. Norman and M. V. K. Sivakumar), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470960257.ch4

Editor Information

  1. 2

    US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, Ames, Iowa, USA

  2. 3

    Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

  3. 4

    Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Author Information

  1. Department of History, University of Missouri, Columbia, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 7 JUN 2011
  2. Published Print: 15 JUL 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780470958575

Online ISBN: 9780470960257

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Keywords:

  • Aldo Leopold;
  • Coon Valley;
  • erosion;
  • ethics/land ethic;
  • land health;
  • policy;
  • Southwest;
  • U.S. Forest Service;
  • watersheds;
  • Wisconsin

Summary

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948) is best known for his concept of a land ethic—a conviction of personal responsibility for the health of the biotic community, including soils, waters, plants and animals as well as people. But what has not been widely recognized is the extent to which his conviction of the need for a land ethic grew out of his scientific interest in soil systems and his concern about the integrity of watersheds.

This paper explores the relationship between Leopold's lifelong observations and reflections on the problems of soil erosion and soil productivity and the evolution of his land ethic philosophy. It considers also the role of his thinking about climate change, landscape ecology, and ethics in the shaping of his ideas about public policy. With his remarkably integrated contributions to scientific analysis, land management, public policy, and environmental ethics, all grounded in his concern about the sustainability of soils, Leopold is a lodestar for the twenty-first century.