Happy Birthday Aldo!

By Bob FerrisAldo Leopold
 
Today is Aldo Leopold’s birthday.  Whether you know it or not a lot the reason we at Cascadia Wildlands do what we do is because this intelligent, insightful and principled man questioned existing paradigms and took the time to look behind the curtain of ecological systems.  
 
One of the main reasons that we grasp concepts like ecological carrying capacity and understand that predator-prey relationships are and should be complicated is because this man and other had the courage to speak up and truly observe the full complement of interacting factors.  
 
Though many people contributed to our current understanding, it is not an overstatement to say that we would certainly not be where we are today with conservation and science had he not lived and acted.  In honor of his birthday, I offer up these seminal quotes that are some of my favorites.  
 
“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” 
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
 
“Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal.” 
― Aldo Leopold
 
“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” 
― Aldo Leopold
 
“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and aesthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to perserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” 
― Aldo Leopold
 
“Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth?” 
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River
 
“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.” 
― Aldo Leopold
 
“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural, wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.” 
― Aldo Leopold
 
“Nonconformity is the highest evolutionary attainment of social animals.” 
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River
 
There are certainly more quotes worth pondering and I seem to find additional favorites each time that I look.  Leopold is on my mind much as we deal with the unfortunate reality of anti-wolf ignorance, try to bring reform to Wildlife Services (the entity Leopold refused to run) and as I talk with staff and our partners about ways to bring cultural change to state wildlife agencies and wildlife commissions so that they understand the value and role of predators and manage them accordingly.  
 
As I said in my first blog post nearly two years ago, Leopold is really my touch stone in a lot of ways.  My “fierce green fire” has been a nearly 30 year career—and counting—in conservation.  Happy birthday Dr. Leopold and may you continue to inspire me and others to pursue their own “fierce green fires” with each passing birthday.  
 

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