Aldo Leopold Quotes | Quotes by Aldo Leopold

1The 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.

2The richest values of wilderness lie not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.

3My favorite quote: The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.

4Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.

5Conservation is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution.

6A river or stream is a cycle of energy from sun to plants to insects to fish. It is a continuum broken only by humans.

7The most important characteristic of an organism is that capacity for internal self-renewal known as health. There are two organisms whose processes of self-renewal have been subjected to human interference and control. One of these is man himself (medicine and public health). The other is land (agriculture and coservation). The effort to control the health of land has not been very successful.

8Once you learn to read the land, I have no fear of what you will do to it, or with it. And I know many pleasant things it will do to you.

9...to any one for whom wild things are something more than a pleasant diversion, (conservation) constitutes one of the milestones in moral evolution.

10Two things hold promise of improving those lights. One is to apply science to land-use. The other is to cultivate a love of country a little less spangled with stars, and a little more imbued with that respect for mother-earth - the lack of which is, to me, the outstanding attribute of the machine-age.

Aldo Leopold Quotes

11Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.

12For one species to mourn the death of another is a new thing under the sun.

13My dog does not care where heat comes from, but he cares that it comes, and soon. Indeed he considers my ability to make it come as something magical, for when I rise in the coal black pre-dawn and kneel by the hearth to make a fire, he pushes himself blandly between me and the kindling splits I have laid in the ashes, and I must touch a match to them by poking it between his legs. Such faith , I suppose, is the kind that moves mountains.

14Hemispheric solidarity is new among statesmen, but not among the feathered navies of the sky.

15Every farm woodland, in addition to yielding lumber, fuel and posts, should provide its owner a liberal education. This crop of wisdom never fails, but it is not always harvested.

16Teach the student to see the land, understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands.

17One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.

18We stand guard over works of art, but species representing the work of aeons are stolen from under our noses

19To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul - hope you like what you see.

20Relegating conservation to government is like relegating virtue to the Sabbath. Turns over to professionals what should be daily work of amateurs .

Aldo Leopold Quotes

21On motionless wing they emerge from the lifting mists, sweep a final arc of sky, and settle in clangorous descending spirals to their feeding grounds. A new day has begun on the crane marsh.

22Time was when education moved toward soil, not away from it.

23We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.

24There can be no doubt that a society rooted in the soil is more stable than one rooted in pavements.

25I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land.

26Wilderness is the very stuff America is made of.

27That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.

28Relegating grizzlies to Alaska is about like relegating happiness heaven; one may never get there.

29There are idle spots on every farm, and every highway is bordered by an idle strip as long as it is; keep cow, plow, and mower out of these idle spots, and the full native flora, plus dozens of interesting stowaways from foreign parts, could be part of the normal environment of every citizen.

30That the situation appears hopeless should not prevent us from doing our best.

Aldo Leopold Quotes

31To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs.

32A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.

33Mechanized recreation already has seized nine-tenths of the woods and mountains; a decent respect for minorities should dedicate the other tenth to wilderness.

34There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

35Every region should retain representative samples of its original or wilderness condition, to serve science as a sample of normality. Just as doctors must study healthy people to understand disease, so must the land sciences study the wilderness to understand disorders of the land-mechanism.

36Like all real treasures of the mind, perception can be split into infinitely small fractions without losing its quality. The weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods; the farmer may see in his cow-pasture what may not be vouchsafed to the scientist adventuring in the South Seas.

37We console ourselves with the comfortable fallacy that a single museum piece will do, ignoring the clear dictum of history that a species must be saved in many places if it is to be saved at all.

38Land health is the capacity for self-renewal in the soils, waters, plants, and animals that collectively comprise the land.

39Ideas, like men, can become dictators. We Americans have so far escaped regimentation by our rulers, but have we escaped regimentation by our own ideas? I doubt if there exists today a more complete regimentation of the human mind than that accomplished by our self-imposed doctrine of ruthless utilitarianism.

40The land-relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations

Aldo Leopold Quotes

41I shall now confess to you that none of those three trout had to be beheaded, or folded double, to fit their casket. What was big was not the trout, but the chance. What was full was not my creel, but my memory.

42One of the anomalies of modern ecology is the creation of two groups, each of which seems barely aware of the existence of the other. The one studies the human community, almost as if it were a separate entity, and calls its findings sociology, economics and history. The other studies the plant and animal community and comfortably relegates the hodge-podge of politics to the liberal arts. The inevitable fusion of these two lines of thought will, perhaps, constitute the outstanding advance of this century.

43What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one's own land?

44We 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.

45One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of March thaw, is the Spring.

46All history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values.

47The drama of the sky dance is enacted nightly on hundreds of farms, the owners of which sigh for entertainment, but harbor the illusion that it is to be sought in theaters. They live on the land, but not by the land.

48In our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.

49No one would rather hunt woodcock in October than I, but since learning of the sky dance I find myself calling one or two birds enough. I must be sure that, come April, there be no dearth of dancers in the sunset sky.

50The road to conservation is paved with good intentions that often prove futile, or even dangerous, due to a lack of understanding of either land or economic land use.

Aldo Leopold Quotes

51A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct

52Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left.

53The government tells us we need flood control and comes to straighten the creek in our pasture. The engineer on the job tells us the creek is now able to carry off more flood water, but in the process we have lost our old willows where the owl hooted on a winter night and under which the cows switched flies in the noon shade. We lost the little marshy spot where our fringed gentians bloomed.

54I do not imply that this philosophy of land was always clear to me. It is rather the end result of a life journey.

55It is part of wisdom never to revisit a wilderness, for the more golden the lily, the more certain that someone has gilded it

56All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.

57In farm country, the plover has only two real enemies: the gully and the drainage ditch. Perhaps we shall one day find that these are our enemies, too.

58But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger-and-better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy. . . . Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings.

59I have purposely presented the land ethic as a product of social evolution because nothing so important as an ethic is ever 'written'鈥?It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.

60The art of land doctoring is being practiced with vigor, but the science of land health is yet to be born.