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Walking on the Land Ethic

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This powerpoint infuses the thoughts of two powerful men: Leopold and Thoreah.

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Presentation Transcript
leopold evolution of ethics
Leopold: Evolution of Ethics

“The first ethics dealt with the relation between individuals…[the second] individuals to society: democracy to integrate social organization to the individual. There is as yet no ethic dealing with man’s relationship to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it.” (20)

leopold extend ethics to land
Leopold: Extend Ethics to Land

Life is anything that is a channel for complex energy conductance that can self-renew—a “flow of complex energy”.

Land is a life.

All life should be conserved.

So, Land should be conserved.

leopold vs god
Leopold vs. God
  • Premise (c) conflicts with OT:

“Abraham knew exactly what the land was for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham’s mouth. At the present moment, the assurance with which we regard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education.”

ot land is to be dominated
OT: Land is to be Dominated
  • “be fruitful and dominate”

“Be fruitful and increase in number: fill the earth and subdue it…”

(Gen. 1:28)

  • All creation is corrupt

And God saw that the earth was corrupt for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. (NSRV)

(Gen. 6:12)

leopold s response
Leopold’s Response

“A land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it.” (21)

“In human history, we have learned (I hope) that the conqueror is eventually self-defeating. Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that the conqueror knows…just what makes the community clock tick, and just what and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless, in community life. It always turns out that he knows neither, and this is why his conquests eventually defeat themselves.” (20)

response christian ecology
Response: Christian Ecology







Extend the bounds of redemption to include nature.

problem how does humanity see beyond itself to include the land
Problem: How does humanity “see” beyond itself to include the land?
  • We must choose a lens by which we view all things in our ethical view: human and non-human.
  • Which lens is justified?
      • Human?
      • Sentience?
      • Flourishing?
      • Creation?
        • Which lens is possible for humans?
thoreau s response wildness
Thoreau’s response: WILDNESS!

“I wish to speak a word for Nature, for absolute freedom and wilderness, as contrasted with a freedom and culture merely civil,-to regard man as an inhabitant, or a part and parcel of Nature, rather than a member of society.” (21)

the surfer
The Surfer

To understand how wildness is accessed through human kinetic activity, consider the surfer’s activity. Her environment consists of the wave with which she interacts. The wave itself is wild: cascading over the shore in a series of endless oscillations and produced by the gravitational pull of the moon – a natural energy forcing water through space, causing a natural convex form with which the surfer engages. The surfboard is a medium through which the surfer engages the wave’s convex shape, becoming a part of the surfer’s will to interact with this natural architecture. In this experience, the surfer gains the wildness of the oscillating ocean waves; she engages the ebb and flow of rushing water, integrated with her environment.

the walker
The Walker

Merely walking can be a wild activity if one walks in a way that participates with the ecological order as opposed to, for instance, social or political orders. In the wild, there are no fixed fences or boundaries or ‘private’ spaces, only an interactive play of organisms found in temporary spaces. One may walk ecologically if they do so along natural lines: trails, valleys, streams. In doing so, one often disrupts social or political lines: climbing over fences and rock walls, dipping under bridges and tunnels. An ecologically informed social or political border, then, will fall on natural lines and in doing so will change, drift, and transform with the natural transitions of these lines.

ice skater
Ice Skater

“The skater can afford to follow all the windings of a stream and yet soon leaves behind and out of sight the walker who cuts across (Thoreau).” Skating becomes an activity adept at discovering natural lines. As Thoreau continues, following the river trail provides a novel and “wilder” vision of our landscape, “a journey on skates along the course of this meandering river…we see all things from a new and wilder side (Thoreau).” Skating speeds the subject along, allowing them to take in greater diversity and spectacle than otherwise, providing the context for an integrative moment—an ecological thought

wild humanity
Wild Humanity

Humanity exists beyond its own political and social communities, but requires a wild perspective from which to engage this encompassing land. Only from such a perspective is a Land Ethic even possible.