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November 10, 2011 / harshjhav

Land Ethics and the Modern Environmental Movement

Ethics influence and help determine how we choose to live our lives. Ethics determine our actions and help us decide whether something is good or bad. Ethics also explains why certain things are important and what value does that bring. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic philosophy of land ethics has set the stage for modern environmental movements. Leopold states that the next phase in evolution of ethics is the expansion of ethics to include non-human members of the biotic community. Thus, land ethic enlarges the boundaries of community to include Land, which consists of soil, water, plants, and animal. Therefore, individuals play an important role in protecting the health of this expanded community. People must have a close connection to land. Leopold states that there is a “Fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils plants, and animals” (216). Here, Leopold states that energy is constantly flowing from one entity to another. We cannot see this energy but a transfer does happen. He also states “A ‘right to life’ for individual members is not consistent with the structure of the biotic community and hence is not mandated by the land ethic” (232-33).  Leopold views that an entity’s right to life does not exist because the energy of the deceased entity will be transferred to another entity. Does this conclude that Leopold affirms and accepts death? I see a slight contradiction in his argument. Leopold at first states that we should accept the Land to be part of our community and become close to it. I see that the only way to become close to the Land and accept its existence is by giving Land the right to life. However, later he states that there is no right to life. Therefore, if we continue to abuse the Land, that is justified because energy is a flowing circuit? Regardless of the slight contradiction, Leopold offers a potential solution to our future environmental problems that include peak oil and climate change. In the status quo, environmental policies are often intensely debated. We must change our ethics and ideology in the direction of Land ethics in order to implement effective policies to combat the future environmental crisis.

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