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Title:The Commonweal of Life: Aldo Leopold and Land Health
Author(s):Newton, Julianne Lutz
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Warner, Richard E.
Department / Program:Natural Resrouces and Environmental Sciences
Discipline:Natural Resrouces and Environmental Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Biology, Ecology
Abstract:Aldo Leopold (1887--1948) is known for his "land ethic," which presented land use as a matter of moral right and wrong, not merely of prudence. What Leopold meant by "land ethic," however, is not well understood because few have appreciated its ecological, ethical, and aesthetic foundation. This study probes that foundation as it emerged in Leopold's thought and work. It attends particularly to the key words he used when he proclaimed, as right, those actions on the land that preserved "the integrity, stability, and beauty" of the "biotic community." Central to Leopold's ethic was his idea of "land health," an ideal that Leopold clarified over time and proposed as an overall, much-needed goal for conservation work. Land health was the culmination of Leopold's mature conservation thought; it shaped not just his ethic but his on-the-ground land management ideas. Land was healthy, Leopold decided, when it retained its productive capacity over the long-run, thereby meeting long-term human needs. Health was complexly interwoven in particular with the land's retention of the biological parts needed to cycle nutrients and to retain and build soils. Land health built upon a specific concept of land as a dynamic, evolving, interdependent system, a concept that emerged from field studies and interactions with numerous ecologists. Land health also incorporated Leopold's ruminations about evolving ethical and aesthetic norms. To live rightly, Leopold concluded, humans needed to identify what was right and true and to respect objective values---the values that withstood the tests of endurance and harmony. Leopold's conservation thought was distinctly holistic in that it promoted the well-being of the land community overall, humans included, rather than merely flows of natural resources. Yet his holism was not linked to a static or ideal view of nature, nor did it call humans to minimize alterations of land. In land health and in his land ethic Leopold expressed an alluring, integrated understanding of human home-making in nature, still valuable today, one in which ecology, aesthetics, human needs, objective value, and right living all converged.
Issue Date:2004
Description:485 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3160932
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2004

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