Ideas Matter 1998| The Ethical Legacy of Aldo Leopold

The lectures series for Fall 1998 focused on the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold, one of the greatest of America's pioneering conservationists. It is now fifty years since the publication of Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. The lecture series approached Leopold's legacy from perspectives as diverse as that of an ecologist concerned about the state of the biosphere, of philosophers concerned with the land ethic and the land aesthetic, of experts in forestry, fish and wildlife management, and nature writers.   The speakers this year were:

Jane Lubchenco - "Thinking Like an Ocean: Extending Leopold's Land Ethic to the Sea"
Peter List - "Aldo Leopold: The Man and his Work"
J. Baird Callicott - "The Land Ethic:Key Philosophical and Scientific Challenges"
Chris Anderson - "Aldo Leopold, St. Benedict, and the Spirituality of Reading"
Dale McCullough - "Of Paradigms and Philosophies: Aldo Leopold and the Search for a Sustainable Future"
Gary Snyder - "Gratitude to Trees: Buddhist Resource Management in Asia and California"
Laura Westra - "The Ethics of Integrity"
Jim Boyle - "Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic:Challenges for Foresters Today and in the 21st Century"
Flo Leibowitz (w/Loren Russell) - "Wetlands, Woodlots, & Native Prairies: Beauty in Leopold's Land Aesthetic"
Kurt Peters - "Leopold, Lopez, and the Pawnee Indians: Locating the Niobrara River in Time and Space"
Estella Leopold - "Leopold's Legacy in Education"

Aldo LeopoldAldo Leopold and A Sand County Almanac

In 1949 Oxford University Press published A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. Leopold had died the year before of a heart attack while fighting a grass fire along with his Sand County farm neighbors. Before his death he had become one of the most prominent and indeed internationally famous leaders in the conservation movement in the United States.

Leopold's book of personal essays display his lifelong emersion in and scientifically informed experience of nature, his woodcraft; along with a remarkable sense of the interconnections of nature with human history and evolution. They reflect the experience of a man who has spent his life trying to understand nature as a hunter and naturalist, a scientist and a practicing land manager and policy maker. Leopold is keenly aware of the loss of biodiversity, and the impoverishment in wild things which our kind of civilization produces. Yet the essays, even when they express the sadness at the losses which humans have inflicted on the natural world, have a lightness which is an expression of the personality of Leopold himself. Many of them have a element of humor and perhaps self-deprecation which also adds to their charm. In short, they are beautifully written.

In the first part of the book, the "Sand County Almanac" proper, Leopold takes us month by month through the cycle of the seasons on the ruined Wisconsin farm which he and his family and friends sought to restore. In the second section of the book, "Sketches from Here and There," we move to a larger perspective in both time and space, essays which reflect Leopold's experience from different parts of his career as a forester and from a variety of different parts of the country. The final part of the book "The Upshot" rises to a more abstract and philosophical level. The famous concluding chapter of the book "The Land Ethic" contrasts those who view nature purely in economic terms, with those who see an intrinsic value in wild things. Leopold makes a variety of interesting proposals about how we must change the way we regard nature. The third and final section of the book gains weight from the reflections of the previous two parts.

Leopold's ideas have continued to have a remarkable influence since his death. A Sand County Almanac has had an enormous impact on environmental movements, and on nature writing in the United States over the last fifty years. Leopold's ideas about the nature of environmental systems, our place in them, and the ways in land should be managed continued to be debated. Leopold's views about education, and conservation education are still of interest. In this year's IDEAS MATTER lecture series we propose to examine the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold from a variety of different perspectives.

We hope you will become an active participant. You can attend the lectures, the schedule is available in a variety of different places, including the Home page of this web site, the Events page of the OSU Philosophy Department web site, and on flyers available from the OSU Philosophy Department. There are discussion forums for each of the lectures, and and a more general structured discussion of related topics. 

For more information about the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold, you might read the articles in the August 1998 special issue of Reflections -- the Newsletter of the Program for Ethics, Science and the Environment (PESE) -- which is devoted to this topic. Copies of this special issue are available from the Philosophy Department, the Progam for Ethics Science and the Environment, and the greater part of it is also available on line.

Jane Lubchenco

Jane Lubchenco - "Thinking Like an Ocean: Extending Leopold's Land Ethic to the Sea"
Weniger 153, October 1, 1998 4:00 P.M.

JANE LUBCHENCO: Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology and Distinguished Professor of Zoology at Oregon State University, a Pew Scholar in conservation and the Environment, and a MacArthur Fellow, Dr, Jane Lub chenco is Past-President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a past President of the Ecological Society of America. She holds earned degrees from Colorado College (B.A.), The University of Washington (M.S.), and Harvard Univers ity (Ph.D.), and four honorary doctoral degrees. She was named Oregon Scientist of the Year in 1994 by the Oregon Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. She was nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate to serve on the National Science Board.

      A marine ecologist by training, Dr. Lubchenco is engaged in a wide range of s cientific, teaching and public service activities. These activities are intended to help address numerous serious environmental problems by improving the scientific understanding of issues, making the best possible scientific information and expertise more accessible to policy and decision makers and by improving the public's understanding of ecological topics.

      Dr. Lubchenco's current research interests include marine conservation biology, biological diversity, ecosystem services, ecological causes and consequences of global changes, and sustainable ecological systems. Her research focuses on rocky intertidal shores and nearshore coastal ecosystems in Oregon and around the world with special emphasis on the e cology of seaweeds, plant-herbivore interactions and community dynamics. Two of her papers have been named Science Citation Classics.

      Dr. Lubchenco has been active in promoting the importance and relevance of e cological research. She led the innovative efforts of the Ecological Society of America to set national prioritie;s for ecological research. This endeavor resulted in the Sustainable Biosphere Initiative, which advances ecological research and provides policy-relevant ecological expertise to national policy and decision-makers. Dr. Lubchenco co-ordinated the sections of the United Nations Environment Programme's Global Biodiversity Assessment which deal with the relationship between biological diversity and ecosystem functioning. She serves on the scientific steering committee for Religion, Science and the Environment, and international partnership between scientists and religious leaders to promote environmental stewardship. She co-chairs a working group for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis on Developing the Theory of Marine Reserves.

      Dr. Lubchenco is active in teaching and communicating science. She teaches courses in ecology, en vironmental sciences, and marine biology, and was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year at Oregon State University in 1986. She has collaborated several times with James and Elaine Larison to produce educational scientific films. Their most recent effor ts included Oregon's Ocean, a PBS film, and Diversity of Life, a national Geographic Society film, which won a CINE Golden Eagle Award. Dr. Lubchenco lectures widely about marine conservation, biodiversity, climatic change, ecosystem services, ecological consequences of population growth and overconsumption, and other global environmental issues. She chairs the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program, a project operated on behalf of the Ecological Society of America to train environmental scientists t be more effective communicators and leaders.

    Dr. Lubchenco served as Chair of the Department of Zoology at OSU for three years. She is a member of the Boards of Directors or Trustees of World Resources Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. She serves on several advisory committees for the National Research Council, the National Science Foundation, National Marine Fisheries Service, the Pew Charitable Trusts, National Public Radio's Living on Earth, the United Nations Environment Programme, and UNESCO. She has briefed heads of state (The President and Vice President of the United States), Congressional leaders (Speaker of the House of Representatives and Congressional committees), church leader s and industry leaders on climatic change, oceans, biodiversity and sustainability.

      Dr. Lubchenco and her husband Dr. Bruce Menge, Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at OSU, have been pioneers in pursuing novel solutions to combine family and academic careers. Each relinquished a full-time Assistant Professorship (Jane at Harvard and Bruce at the University of Massachusetts at Boston) to accept a half-time tenure-track Assistant Professorship at OSU in 1977. This arrangement of splitting a single faculty position allowed each to teach and conduct research as tenure-track, and later as tenured faculty, but also to spend significant amounts of time with their young children. After ten years on half-time appointments and two years on three-quarters appointment, each resumed a full-time position. Their two sons are now 17 and 20. In view of the success of this arrangement, Drs. Lubchenco and Menge are strong advocates for part-time but tenure track faculty appointments.

Peter List

Peter List - "Aldo Leopold: The Man and his Work"
MU 105, October 8, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Peter List is the chief organizer of this lecture series. Peter is concerned about the continuing human exploitation and degradation of the wilder and more undeveloped parts of the earth. This has led him to focus his writing and research on the philosophical and value bases of environmentalism and natural resource management. His interest in these subjects as they relate to public forestry is evident in "Conflicting Values about Federal Forests," "The Land Ethic in American Forestry: Pinchot and Leopold," "Some Philosophical Assessments of Environmental Disobedience," and Radical Environmentalism: Philosophy and Tactics, and a forthcoming book, Public Forests and Public Ethics.

Read a transcript of Peter Lists talk.

J. Baird Callicott

J. Baird Callicott - "The Land Ethic:Key Philosophical and Scientific Challenges,"
MU 105, October 15, 1998 4:00 P.M.

J. BAIRD CALLICOTT is professor of philosophy and religion studies at the University of North Texas. He is author of Earth's Insights, In Defense of the Land Ethic, Beyond the Land Ethic, and more than a hundred book chapters, journal articles, and book reviews in environmental philosophy. He is editor or coeditor of Companion to A Sand County Almanac, The River of the Mother of God and Other Essays by Aldo Leopold, and several other anthologies. In 1971 he designed and implemented the first philosophy course in environmental ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is president of the International Society of Environmental Ethics.

      As the list of publications makes clear, Baird Callicott has been one of the leading philosophical interpreters of Aldo Leopold. He has also been a leader in the effort to develop a multi-cultural environmental ethic which uses Leopold's work as its touchstone. Callicott and Roger Ames of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy arranged a number of conferences on views of nature in other cultures, which resulted in the publication of Nature in Asian Tradtions of Thought, and Callicott's own survey of multi-cultural resources for an environmental ethic spanning the enitre world -- Earth's Insights.

Read a transcript of Baird's talk.

Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson - "Aldo Leopold, St. Benedict, and the Spirituality of Reading"
MU 208, October 22, 1998 4:00 P.M.

CHRIS ANDERSON is Professor of English and Composition Coordinator at Oregon State and the author, co-author, or editor of eight books, including Edge Effects: Notes From An Oregon Forest, a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. He received a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington in 1983 and an M.A. in Theology from Mount Angel Seminary in 1997. He is also a recently ordained deacon of the Catholic Church and active in parish and campus ministry, preaching, assisting at the altar, baptizing, witnessing marriages, and presiding at funeral vigils and communion services. With his wife, Barb, the pastoral assistant at St. Mary's parish, and their three children, he lives at the edge of OSU's McDonald-Dunn Research Forest.

Read a transcript of Chris' talk.

Dale McCullough

Dale McCullough - "Of Paradigms and Philosophies: Aldo Leopold and the Search for a Sustainable Future"  MU 208, October 27, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Dale McCullough holds the A. Starker Leopold Chair in Wildlife Biology and is Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management at the University of California at Berkeley. McCullough has studied the population ecology of large mammals for the past 35 years and has used population models extensively in his work. He co-organized Wildlife 2000 in 1991. McCullough has written and edited several books on population biology and metapopulations (McCullough 1979, 1996; McCullough and Barrett 1992).

Read a transcript of Dale's talk.

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder - "Gratitude to Trees: Buddhist Resource Management in Asia and California,"  Austin Auditorium, La Salle Stewart Center - October 29, 1998 7:30 P.M.

Six A.M.,
Sat down on excavation gravel
by juniper and desert S.P. tracks
interstate 80 not far off
     between trucks
Coyotes--maybe three
        howling and yapping from a rise.

Magpie flew down to a bough
Tipped her head and looked at me and said,

    "Here is the mind brother
    Turquoise blue.
    I wouldn't fool you.
    Smell the breeze
    It came through all the trees
    No need to fear.
    What's ahead
    Snow up on the hills west
    Will be there every year
    be at rest.
    A feather on the ground---
    The wind sound---

Here is the mind, brother, Turquoise blue" 

- Gary Snyder
From No Nature
By permission of the author

* * *

GARY SNYDER, Professor, Department of English, Program in Nature and Culture, and Creative Writing Program, University of California, Davis, was born in San Francisco in 1930. As a youth in the Pacific Northwest he worked on the family farm and seasonally in the woods. He graduated from Reed college in Portland in 1951. After a season of graduate study in Linguistics at Indiana University he returned west to attend Graduate School at U.C. Berkeley in the Department of East Asian Languages. In the Bay Area Snyder associated with Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and others who were part of the remarkable flowering of west coast poetry during the fifties. In 1956 he moved to Kyoto Japan to study Zen Buddhism and East Asian culture.

In 1969 he returned to North America. For the last twenty-five years he has been living in the northern Sierra Nevada. He is married to Carole Koda, and has two sons and two stepdaughters. He has travelled widely, reading poetry, teaching Buddhist meditation and working on environmental and community issues. Since 1986 he has been teaching at the University of California at Davis.

Snyder has 16 books of poetry and prose in print. . He has been a Guggenheim Fellow, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Turtle Island won the Pulitzer prize for poetry in 1975, and his selected poems No Nature was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1992. His most recent book, Mountains and Rivers Without End won the Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1997.

Gary Snyder's Lecture is co-sponsored by the OSU English Department's Visiting Writers Series.

Laura Westra

Laura Westra - "The Ethics of Integrity,"
MU 105 November 5, 4:00 P.M.


"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of a biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
        --Aldo Leopold



LAURA WESTRA, received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1983. She is presently Professor of Philosophy at the University of Windsor. She has nine published books, An Environmental Proposal for Ethics: The Principle of Integrity (1994), Ethical and Scientific Perspectives on Integrity (1995), Faces of Environmental Racisim -- Confronting Issues of Global Justice (1995), The Greeks and the Environment (1997),Technology and Values (1997), Ecological Sustainability and Integrity: Concepts and Approaches (1998), Living in Integrity (1999), The Business of Consumption (1998), and Freedom in Plotinus (1990). Westra also has about sixty published papers or chapters in books, most on environmental ethics, but also on Ancient, Hellenistic and Medieval philosophy, and about 150 presented papers and 50 invited papers. She has been funded by Canadian sources (SSHEC) since 1992 for her work on ecological integrity, and has arranged meetings and conferences in both philosophical and scientific venues on related topics. She is the founder of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, and has held the position of Secretary (now elected) since 1990.

Abstract:  Starting from the position of primacy which Aldo Leopold assigns to the notion of integrity,
I have argued that integrity, and which now informs a large number of regulations, laws and governmental statements, needs to be properly defined and properly understood as a scientific concept. A thorough understanding of integrity leads not only to the formulation of regulations, but also to moral principles based on its requirements and its primacy. I have developed a "categorical imperative" to that effect (1994) and followed it wth a list of second order principles. I have called this approach "The Ethics of Integrity", that is, I have spelled out the moral requirements that follow upon Leopold's famous words.

Jim Boyle

Jim Boyle - "Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic:Challenges for Foresters Today and in the 21st Century,"  Nov. 10, ALS 4001, 4:00 P.M.

Jim Boyle, Professor of Forestry and Soil Ecology in the College of Forestry, Oregon State University, was born in Iowa and nurtured in the loess bluffs, gardens, woodlands and farmlands of southwest Iowa. He studied forestry at Iowa State University and the Yale School of Forestry, and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Forest Research Institute of Finland. After two years in the army, he was Assistant Professor of Soil Science and Forestry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1973 he joined the faculty of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan, and taught summer courses at the U of M Biological Station at Douglas Lake. He was visiting research forester with Crown Zellerbach's Forestry Research Division in Wilsonville, Oregon during 1980-81. He became Professor of Forestry and Head of the Forest Management Department in the College of Forestry at Oregon State in 1981. In 1989 he resumed full-time professorial duties, teaching forest ecology, issues in natural resources conservation, and continuing education programs in forest ecology and forest soils. He has researched mineral weathering in tree root zones, impacts of whole-tree harvesting on soils, and soil properties that influence long-term forest productivity, and has visited forests and dug in soils from arctic Sweden to northern China and the islands of New Zealand. He is a member of the Society of American Foresters and a member and Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America.

Abstract:  Aldo Leopold's essay "The Land Ethic" was published in an early form in the Journal of Forestry more than fifty years ago. This essay, along with Leopold's shorter ones have provided a literary tapestry and intellectual challenge for foresters. It's my impression and opinion, however, that relatively few foresters have seriously considered these writings to be potential parts of their education relevant to managing forests. From my viewpoint, forestry education and culture in general have been so focussed on utilitarian views of forests that there has been little or no emphasis on conceiving of humans as "members of the community of the land". Nor have there thorough considerations of the concept of forest "land" as a set of holistic systems that include human communities. Foresters are, by and large, a pragmatic group with sound ideas, education and training in being good land stewards by growing and harvesting trees, avoiding massive soil erosion and maintaining good habitats for hunting and fishing. Multiple use, the mantra of forestry of the sixties, has been deemed sufficient. We have not thoroughly challenged each other to go philosophically beyond utilitarianism, in spite of a land ethic canon recently added to the professinal code of ethics. Today, Leopold's "Land Ethic", Garrett Hardin's ideas about "cultural carrying capacity", concepts of "ecosystem services", considerations of "ecological footprints" of human communities, discussions of potential sustainability of forests and forestry, in addition to basic sciences of forest ecology and forest productivity - (and, ideas from deep ecology!) - provide a rich basis for considering human interactions with forests. And, for considering how professional foresters can best serve society.

Flo Leibowitz

Flo Leibowitz (with Loren Russell) - "Wetlands, Woodlots, and Native Prairies: Beauty in Leopold's Land Aesthetic,"  Nov.12, MU 105, 4:00 P.M.

Flora Leibowitz is Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University and the director of the Philosophy Department's Graduate program. Her areas of specialty are contemporary philosophy of art, history of aesthetics, and philosophy of mind. Her scholarly work deals with philosophical issues of the mass arts (e.g., film,television, recorded music), mass media communication, and with the connections between art, mind, and action.


Read a transcript of Flo's talk.

Kurt Peters

Kurt Peters - "Leopold, Lopez, and the Pawnee Indians: Locating the Niobrara River in Time and Space"  MU 208, November 7, 1998 4:00 P.M.

Kurt Peters' PhD is from Berkeley Ethnic Studies, and he works primarily as a historian. His most recent research project is on the long-term relations between the Laguna Pueblo and the Santa Fe Railroad and the communities of Laguna people that followed the railway westward into California. Kurt comes to OSU from Cal State Sacramento and has taught at several other institutions in California and elsewhere. He has also had a research fellowship at the UCLA Indian Center, and has extensive experience in finance and economics. Kurt served aS interim chair for the 1996-1997 academic year.


Estella Leopold

Estella Leopold - "Leopold's Legacy in Education"
ALS 4001, November 17, 1998 7:30 P.M.

Estella Leopold, Professor of Botany and Environmental Studies at the University of Washington, daughter of Aldo and Estella Leopold, like many of her siblings, is a distinguished scientist. She worked in a number of places where her father had been, at the Forest Products Labratory Madison, Wisconsin, at Yale and as a visiting professor in the Department of Botany and the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Since 1976 she has been associated with the University of Washington. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1974, and to the American Academy of Sciences in 1992, as well as receiving a variety of other prestigeous grants and awards in the course of her career. She was an Associate Editor of Quartenary Research and is on the editorial board of other journals. She has given a large number of invited papers and has a distinguished publication record .

Aldo Leopold, besides being a pioneering conservationist, was a remarkable educator, who stressed a kind of experiential education which was quite different from ordinary academic educational practices. Leopold regularly took his students out to observe nature, and asked them questions about what they were seeing. He sought to instill in them, some of his own remarkable "woodcraft." Estella Leopold herself profited from this kind of education from her father, and believes that Aldo Leopold's views and concerns about how to educate people about nature are still relevant to us today. This too is a part of the ethical legacy of Aldo Leopold.

Estella Leopold's Lecture is co-sponsored by the OSU Department of Botany and Plant Pathology