SAND COUNTY ALMANAC FIFTY YEARS LATER
In 1949 a small book was published shortly after its author, Aldo Leopold, died
of a heart attack while fighting a forest fire near his homestead in rural
Wisconsin. The book was a collection of his nature writings, crotchety
writings, lyrical writings, praise for nature and manifestos for people from a
man who spent his life in some of the wildest parts of America.
The title was A Sand County Almanac. The book was little noticed until twenty
years later, during the environmental awakening of the 1970s, when a paperback
edition turned into a surprise best-seller. Now, 50 years later, the book is
high on the most-beloved list of environmentalists, including me.
Leopold's way of seeing nature is etched into my brain. He taught me that
whenever I cut through the growth-rings of a tree, I'm sawing through history.
"We cut 1906, when ... fires burned 17,000 acres in these sand counties; we cut
1905 when a great flight of goshawks came out of the North and ate up the local
grouse. We cut 1902-3, a winter of bitter cold; 1901, which brought the most
intense drought of record."
Whenever I see soil washing downstream, I think of Leopold's story of a
molecule called X traveling through nature. "The break came when a bur-oak
root nosed down a crack and began prying and sucking. In the flash of a
century, the rock decayed, and X was pulled out and up into the world of living
things. He helped build a flower, which became an acorn, which fattened a
deer, which fed an Indian, all in a single year."
Finally X ends up in a beaver, "an animal that always feeds higher than he
dies. The beaver starved when his pond dried up. X rode the carcass down the
spring freshet, losing more altitude each hour than heretofore in a century.
He fed a crayfish, a coon, and then an Indian, who laid him down to his last
sleep in a mound on the riverbank. One spring an oxbow caved the bank, and X
lay again in his ancient prison, the sea."
That story conveys a strange ethic -- help life hold precious nutrients by
arranging to defecate and die higher than you feed and live. But that's only
part of Leopold's morality, which is firmly articulated in his most famous
chapter, "The Land Ethic."
He starts with the legend of Odysseus returning from Troy and hanging his
slaves. In ancient Greece slaves were property, governed by expedience, not
community, governed by respect toward equals, partners, brothers and sisters,
extensions of ourselves.
Since then our ethical boundaries have enlarged to include slaves, women,
children, people of other races and beliefs. It is time, says Leopold, to
expand once again, to include "soils, waters, plants, and animals, or
collectively: the land."
It is necessary to do this, not just because we love nature, but because we are
connected with it. We eat from it, we drink from it, it is our life-support
system. Caring for it is no different from caring for ourselves. "All ethics
so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a
community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his
place in that community, but his ethics prompt him to cooperate.... A land
ethic, then, reflects ... a conviction of individual responsibility for the
health of the land."
Then comes the thundering ethic, the most famous two sentences in the book. "A
thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty
of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
That idea is engraved in my soul. If we applied it, we would live in a
healthier, more beautiful, more bountiful world. We would stop whining about
the inconvenience of the Endangered Species Act and see, as Leopold says, that
"the last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: 'What
good is it?' If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is
good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons,
has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would
discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first
precaution of intelligent tinkering."
Leopold loved nature and loved people too. He saw humans as the only creatures
endowed with the capability for a land ethic. At a monument to the passenger
pigeon, he gave a speech that was as much a tribute to us as to the pigeon:
"We have erected a monument to commemorate the funeral of a species. It
symbolizes our sorrow. We grieve because no living man will see again the
on-rushing phalanx of victorious birds, sweeping a path for spring across the
March skies, chasing the defeated winter from all the woods and prairies of
"For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun.
The Cro-Magnon who slew the last mammoth thought only of steaks. The sportsman
who shot the last pigeon thought only of his prowess. The sailor who clubbed
the last auk thought of nothing at all. But we, who have lost our pigeons,
mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the pigeons would hardly have
mourned us. In this fact, rather than in Mr. DuPont's nylons or Mr. Vannevar
Bush's bombs, lies objective evidence of our superiority over the beasts."
Not many books still ring true after fifty years, still teach relevant lessons,
and still inspire.
(Donella H. Meadows is director of the Sustainability Institute and an adjunct
professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.)
Job Opening Announcement
Position: Communications Officer
The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC).
The REC is a regional organisation based in Szentendre, Hungary, with the
mission to assist in solving the environmental problems in Central and
Eastern Europe by encouraging cooperation among non-governmental
organisations, governments, businesses and other environmental
stakeholders, by supporting the free exchange of information and by
promoting public participation in environmental decision-making.
Department: Information Exchange (IED)
The IED: provides and improves public access to environmental information;
promotes networking and the exchange of information among environmental
stakeholders; and improves the availability and distribution of REC
products and services.
The Communications Officer is responsible for managing REC projects related
to communicating the activities of the REC to the general public and
environmental stakeholders. This includes coordinating the REC's Annual
Report, information brochures and press releases, as well as managing the
production of all REC publications. The Communications Officer will also
assist in coordinating the communications activities of the Environmental
Action Plan for Europe (EAP) Task Force.
Experience and skill level required:
- Excellent communication, public relations, writing and editing skills in
- At least two years of related professional experience.
- Very good knowledge of one or more Central and Eastern European (CEE)
language preferred (Russian also useful).
- Solid organisational and project management skills, including budgeting.
- Understanding of the Central European region, environmental issues and/or
international relations preferred.
- University degree in related discipline.
- Education in environmental sciences/studies a valuable asset.
To apply: Send a C.V. and cover letter by February 8 to: Mozes Kiss,
Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Ady
Endre ut 9-11, Szentendre 2000, Hungary. Fax: (36-26) 311-294. Email:
> epulo csaladi hazunk energiaellatasat termeszetes uton szeretnem
> megoldani. Gondoltam napelemre... vagy "mini szeleromu"-re
Jomagam is torom a fejem joideje a felvetett kerdesen (szerencsere -
vagy inkabb pech? - nekem meg eltelik nehany ev, amig epitkezni
Ami infot az elmult nehany evben osszeszedtem, to"mondatokban:
napelem : draga, de szerintem a jovo egyik utja.
szeleromu: Magyarorszagon nem fuj elegge a szel. Tanyakon, hetvegi
hazaknal neha szoktak hasznalni kozvetlen vizkiemelesre. Aramtermelesre
itthon nem igazan valo - gondolj arra, hogy a szelmalmoknak mekkora a
vitorlaja, pedig azzal csak egy-ket malomkovet kellett forgatni. Es meg igy
is elo- elofordult, hogy szelcsend miatt napokig nem mukodtek.
napkollektor: cso"kigyo' a hazteton, melegviz- es futeskiegeszitesre jo, eleg
draga, de kb. 8-10 ev alatt megterul. Viszonylag sok ceg foglalkozik vele.
(1998-as iranyar: 40.000 Ft/nm, legalabb 10-15 nm-t kell foltenni)
Egyelore leginkabb epiteszeti megoldasokkal szokas elni, ugymint:
az epulet megfelelo tajolasa;
az epulet szerkezetenek olyan kialakitasa, hogy a levego ott legyen meleg,
ahol kell (erdekes alaku hazakat es foleg belso tereket eredmenyez :);
telikert (csak ugyelni kell arra is, hogy nyaron arnyekolni lehessen,
kulonben mindenki hogutat kap).
u.i.: szerintem az epiteszeteknek mindezt izombol tudnia illik
u.i.2.: nagyon szivesen hallanek majd a vegeredmenyrol