Posts Tagged ‘Aldo Leopold’

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Adirondack Family Time: Aldo Leopold Film Screening

“We abuse land because we regard 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, A Sand County Almanac (1949)

This Saturday the Adirondack Interpretive Center will be hosting the only Adirondack screening of the documentary Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and Land Ethic For Our Time. Leopold holds the honor of shaping and influencing the modern environmental conservation movement. Leopold is credited with inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.

The title Green Fire refers to a passage in Leopold’s book, A Sand County Almanac when he is a young forest ranger and self-described as “full of trigger-itch.” Leopold writes how he shoots a wolf believing that fewer predators would mean a hunters’ paradise. He comes upon the injured wolf and watches “a fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” an event that would change his view of the necessity of predators in the landscape.

According to Adirondack Interpretive Center Program Manager Rebecca Oyer the one-day event will be packed with activities from bench building to a panel discussion. Oyer wants people to know that they can come for one event or all of the day’s activities.

“Starting at 9:00 a.m. those that register will be able to make a Leopold bench. The cost of the materials ($30) is the only fee for this whole day. The screening, readings and panel discussions are all free,” says Oyer. “ There will be a break around 10:30 a.m. with refreshments and panelists will read passages from The Sand County Almanac. After a lunch break we will show the movie Green Fire at 1:30 p.m.”

After the film the four panelists will discuss how each apply and implement Leopold’s legacy in their own work. Panelists: Dave Gibson, partner in the not-for-profit Adirondack Wild, Lisa Eddy, a Michigan High School teacher developing curriculum based on Leopold’s philosophies, Peter Brinkley, Adirondack Wild Senior partner and Marianne Patinelli-Dubay, environmental philosopher. Both Gibson and Patinelli-Dubay are regular Almanack contributors.

A complete schedule can be found here. Registration is required by calling 518-582-2000 for the January 21, Saturday, event. Keep in mind that the trails at the Newcomb Adirondack Interpretive Center are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

If you are bringing your own young people, know your family’s limitations. My children are excited to make the Leopold bench and see the rest of the hour-long film Green Fire. If they wish to listen to the readings and panel discussions, I am all for it. I will have snowshoes packed as a backup plan. We can discuss Leopold’s Legacy while enjoying the trails at the Adirondack Interpretive Center.

Illustration provided.

Diane Chase is the author of Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 activities. Her second book of family activities will cover the Adirondack Lake Champlain coast and in stores summer 2012.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philosophy: Aldo Leopold, Heresy and Prophecy

I was nineteen when I first considered what has become a personally recurrent theme: what is the role of the divine in an aesthetic life? Is a beautiful life animated by the poetic mysteries?

One etymological reading of “atheism” is to be abandoned by the gods, godless. And as if abandonment wasn’t enough to spur repentance, a beloved and deeply spiritual teacher once told me that to be an atheist is to declare a world without the divine.

Why, I wondered, does that world seem as attractive as a strip mall, so terribly un-poetic and not at all like a reality that I want to inhabit? My attempts to answer this question have charted an interesting intellectual and (dare I say) spiritual course. It’s true that a godless world isn’t absent its natural beauty, but in a godless world I am confined to behold it without mysticism.

I prefer Emerson’s belief that “the world exists to the soul to satisfy the desire of beauty.” If only so I can observe with him “…the spectacle of morning from the hilltop over against my house, from daybreak to sunrise, with emotions which an angel might share. […] I seem to partake its rapid transformations; the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind.” At the same time I resist Thoreau’s disenchantment when he writes of spirit, “however much it is to be regretted, with years I have grown more coarse and indifferent. Perhaps these questions are entertained only in youth, as most believe of poetry.”

Throughout history poets, painters, philosophers, musicians have drawn on the human condition and its mysteries to inspire their craft – from Emerson’s Christianity to Thoreau’s reliance on the Hindu Vedas. After all, society expects this from those of us in the humanities who seek to understand what it means to be human. I share their desire for a beautiful life animated by spirit, enlivened by the mysterious and written in poetry. This desire fuels a personal resistance to an explainable life. In this I am at least in pretty good company. Among others, conservationist Aldo Leopold who considers it fortunate that “no matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all of the salient facts about any one of them.”

I was thinking of this and of Leopold recently when a colleague in biology compared Leopold and his Land Ethic with the prophet Muhammad and Christ. Did I hear what I think I heard? Certainly the Transcendental style of Leopold’s predecessors can be read in Leopold’s own, and as often as Thoreau resisted doctrinal spirituality, he embraced naturalism and animism in turn. I would even argue that it is impossible to read Thoreau’s chapter titled “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” in Walden without recalling Leopold’s chapter called “July” in the Sand County Almanac. And as influences go, Leopold’s voice emerges also in concert with his contemporary John Muir. Muir’s observations on the Wisconsin prairie are cited in Leopold’s Almanac and call to mind Muir’s description of the great forests of the western United States as “God’s first temples.”

Nevertheless it is one thing to acknowledge a spiritual quality in our own work and in the work of someone like Leopold; to chart his influences back to a mostly Christian origin provides context and reveals some of what is unspoken in philosophy and science. And it is another thing entirely to elevate the work and the man to the level of prophet. We would do well to remember that heresy and prophecy are two sides of the same coin and they make dangerous the critique that is essential to responsible scholarship.

Marianne Patinelli-Dubay is a philosopher living, teaching and writing in the Adirondacks

Photo from The Aldo Leopold Foundation



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