Happy 125th Birthday Aldo Leopold: Keep the Green Fire Burning

Aldo-relaxing_colorToday, January 11, 2013, marks the 125th birthday of conservationists, author, teacher and hero Aldo Leopold.

Growing up in a nature-loving family in a rural Wisconsin village, Leopold’s writings and conservation ethic have always held a special place in my heart.  Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac ranks high on my list of books that most influenced me, and certainly I’m hardly alone in that respect.

Over the past few summers, we’ve been spending more and more time with my family in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – a place where our family goes back six generations, to my great-great grandpa, who was the village blacksmith for 50 years.   As a child, the sandhill cranes were long-gone from that part of the world, but over the past decade or so, the sandhill cranes have made a remarkable comeback and, when back there, I will see or hear sandhill cranes daily – something that would have seemed impossible decades ago.

To this day, when I hear the eerie, somewhat haunting and pre-historic, calls of the sandhill cranes I think of Aldo Leopold and offer my thanks and praise for his life’s work.

If you get a chance this weekend, pick up your copy of A Sand County Almanac and let Leopold’s words mesmerize and flow over you.  A great video on the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold has also just been released.  You can watch a nice 12 minute trailer here: http://vimeo.com/8669977.

Below are two of Leopold’s quotes, which really touch me, as I’m sure they do others.

“We 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.”

“We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I was young then, and full of trigger itch. I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunter’s paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf, nor the mountain, agreed with such a view.”

4 thoughts on “Happy 125th Birthday Aldo Leopold: Keep the Green Fire Burning”

  1. Thanks, Matthew. Leopold was a giant and he wasn’t born that way: he evolved. He was that very rarest of men, the kind that have the drive to educate themselves away from conventional thinking and their own prejudices and cultivate true wisdom. He was so far ahead of the curve, ecologicaly, that the world has yet to catch up and his Land Ethic is the definition of environmental sanity to this day.

  2. Yes, a great tribute to one of our greatest environmental leaders of all time. Since 1955 I have treasured a copy of a monograph stamped with “from the library of Aldo Leopold” that I saved from a waste basket during a short stint at the Univ. of Wisconsin in Madison. His Sand County Almanac was required reading while an undergrad at the Purdue Univ. forestry school and that book is one of only two that I still keep in my library from those old days.
    Will we ever see another like Aldo? I doubt it.


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