February 4, 2014
Aldo Leopold, “The Land Ethic”
“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively the land.” Leopold does not believe this ethic can eradicate our use of land as a resource, but does think it cultivates the lands right to exist, and further to exist in a natural state. A land ethic to Leopold “changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.”
Leopold’s land ethic is admirable; however, his blame placed on Homo sapiens is a drawback because it shovels attention away from the class question. Humanity collectively is not responsible for the degradation and ruin of our environment; rather the capitalist class and a small portion of Homo sapiens are to blame. Working people, the majority, have little power and influence in decisions. The owners, the minority, have been the decision makers for all of mankind’s history and were during the industrial revolution; which is when our large-scale environmental destruction began. It does not matter if this was done out of ignorance or self-interest, the owners dictated and still dictate our relationship to the environment. Therefore, it is unfair for Leopold to blame humanity for the decisions of a small minority. Doing so would be no different than blaming the slaves for slavery.
It appears that Leopold is aware of the class issue, but shies away from openly questioning it for some reason. In his discussion of the A-B cleavage, he seems to take aim at capitalism by stating that group A, “regards the land as soil, and its function as commodity production.” Group B, who he favors, “regards the land as a biota, and its function as something broader.” Its obvious he sees land as something far more valuable than just being a mere commodity. Maybe Leopold thought calling out capitalism would be taboo, however not doing so makes...