In “The Land Ethic,” Aldo Leopold uses an argumentative tone to prove to the reader that there is an absent land ethic and oblivion has overcome our society. Leopold argues that every living thing has value in a multitude of ways. He states that “the land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land (2).” The author cleverly uses his opinion paired with factual information to reveal his reasoning about the lack of a land ethic and how “science has given us many doubts, but it has given us at least one certainty: the trend of evolution is to elaborate and diversify the biota” (8). In other words, Leopold is stating that the utmost importance of evolution is to amplify and expand the biota. The absence of a land ethic is one of the underlying problems that the community faces. Leopold proclaims “it is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value” (12). Likewise, the community does not properly use its resources in an appropriate manner. He briefly explains how the community takes the existence of resources for granted for the improvement of multiple rural roadways and buildings. This is not only a sign of weakness in the community, but also a sign of carelessness towards nature as a whole.
Leopold provides a historical example of Odysseus and his slave girls to show the interconnection between ethics and property. Ultimately, Odysseus’s slaves had no value; they were simply a form of property. Leopold wants the reader to understand that, as a society, it is up to us to preserve the land and to quit viewing it as property or as something of little value. His explanation that “the disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong” (1) proves to the reader that his argument is crucial. He demonstrates, in consideration, that conservation is the key element to the land ethic and “is a state of harmony between man and land (4).”
Leopold discusses that through conservation all of our resources should have a continued right for existence. He argues that one of the greatest weaknesses in any conservation network is that most sections of the community have an absent beneficial worth. Leopold offers songbirds and wildflowers as two examples that he believes are elements of the natural community. He bases his reasoning on the underlying argument that these natural organisms are permitted to continuance, regardless of any economic benefit to the community. Leopold further explains that in the overall endeavor to simplify conservation, our society has made it quite strenuous.
Leopold continues by introducing “The Land Pyramid” which is, inevitably, something that is rather understood in nature than visually seen on a daily basis. He explains that, “the pyramid is a tangle of chains so complex as to seem disorderly, yet the stability of the system proves it to be a highly organized structure” (7). In other words, he demonstrates in the simplest of terms how the pyramid begins with the soil and works its way up to the carnivorous species. He then explains the interconnections of the food chain and how its operation relies solely on the collaboration and rivalry of all its various functions.
Leopold claims that our society lacks conservation education and “despite nearly a century of propaganda, conservation still proceeds at a snail’s pace” (4). Society ponders the rules and why they are nonexistent; indeed, they are informed that the society is not quite prepared to ratify the rules. He feels that the absence of conservation education has undoubtedly weakened the system’s economic purpose. Likewise, he further explains that pollution and damming the waters has corrupted the community in such a way that it would almost be impossible to find a balance between the natural way and the man-made way. Fortunately for the community, it is never too late to begin conservation education and preserving the natural organisms, elements and lands that were granted to us.
Leopold strives to reveal the underlying truth that the land ethic is absent and that most of our society’s problems are due to our lack of using our resources respectfully and responsibly. His historical examples of Odysseus, the importance of conservation education, and the structure of “The Land Pyramid”, all serve as key elements that work to validate his argument and reveal how imperative it is to understand that the lack of the land ethic is where the issues arise.