Read A%20Sand%20County%20Almanac%20and%20Sketches%20Here%20and%20There-%20Book%20Review%20by%20DanaJames.pdf text version

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Leopold, Aldo. 1949. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 226pp. Dana James The collection of essays written by Aldo Leopold and compiled into the book A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There was first published in 1949, a year after the author passed away. The book is split into three sections of essays: the first section, A Sand County Almanac, was written at Leopold's sand farm in Wisconsin and is meant to capture the beauty of nature in its element; the second section, Sketches Here and There, is written about a variety of places throughout the United States that the author had spent some time in (i.e., Illinois and Arizona), emphasizing the importance of conservation; and the third section, The Upshot, includes four essays Leopold wrote addressing the public and calling for change in how the environment is viewed. The individual purposes of these sections, when added together, give the general purpose of the book: Leopold argues that land is abused because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us and working for us, but he believes that when we learn to see land as a community to which we and others belong, we may begin to use it and treat it with love, respect, and integrity. He states that land as a community is "a basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural harvest is a fact long known, but latterly often forgotten" (Leopold, pp. viii-ix). Leopold intends to fuse these concepts together in his book. Leopold, an incredibly well-respected forester, scientist, conservationist, and author, obtained the information for this book throughout the course of his life. He became interested in the natural world as a child and grew up to attend the Sheffield Scientific School at Yale,

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followed by enrollment in the Yale Forestry School. He gained field experience as a member of the U.S. Forest Service and soon became supervisor of the Carson National Forest, a forest of over a million acres. He next progressed to Associate Director of the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, which at the time was the "principal research institution of the Forest Service" (Leopold, pp. 227). Finally, in 1933, he took the position as chairman in Game Management at the University of Wisconsin. He wrote the "classic text Game Management, over 350 articles, and was an advisor on conservation to the UN" (Leopold, pp. 227-28). All of this experience resulted in the culmination of essays in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Leopold's analysis of the information is delivered as he perceives the situation to be; he writes it as he sees it. The main idea in A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There is the conservation of land and all things found in the wilderness. Leopold really wants the reader to come away with an appreciation for the importance and beauty of nature. Through his use of concise, anecdotal essays at the start of the book, he conveys the pure pleasure that nature can bring to a person, and does an excellent job of highlighting unique ecological processes. These short story-like essays remind the reader of how enjoyable it is to spend time outdoors, and of how much humans still do not understand - and therefore how much there still is to learn. The second section of essays identifies the importance of conservation and respect for nature. This is particularly evident in the "Escudilla" essay in the Arizona and New Mexico portion of the book. Leopold describes how Escudilla is closely associated with and defined by the grizzly bear, and how this version of Escudilla dies when the last grizzly is shot, how the mountain is almost less special now because of it. The last section of essays outlines how to reform the public's view of land and wilderness, particularly their perception of land, its use, and its commodification.

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Leopold makes the argument that a true connection to nature is necessary to understand ourselves and the people who surround us. Leopold's conclusion is that the population of the United States needs to have a shift in their perception of land; in fact, they need to develop a "land ethic." Land is not just an economic commodity to be owned, used, and abused by humans, but is a resource that needs to be respected and taken care of, and policies and laws should reflect that. Conservation education needs to be reevaluated and retaught, so that rather than valuing some kind of trophy (be it a hunted deer or a simple photograph), people value the experience and enjoyable memory and freedom of being in the wilderness instead. As a fellow nature-lover and conservationist, I really enjoyed reading what Leopold had to say; he had a lot of creative and innovative ideas for his time and clearly was at the forefront of his field. I could easily tell that his passion for the outdoors translated into every facet of his life. Part of the strength of the book is due to the way Leopold strategically organized it: the first section of essays sounds very warm and anecdotal, which makes the reader take a liking to him straightaway and trust his opinions. In the second section, once Leopold has the reader's confidence, he describes the necessity of conservation through stories of fondness and appreciation and stories of loss. Here he strikes a chord of sadness in the reader, and plants the seed that something must change: something must be done. By the third section of the book, he convinces the reader that this is a possibility if the mentality of society changes. I think the genius of this progression is what makes A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There still resonate with people everywhere and a classic environmental book. I would definitely recommend this book to the public in general, because all of society could benefit from reading Leopold's essays and shifting their mindsets on the topic of conservation. I would especially

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recommend this book to those who, like me, have a great and particular interest in nature, conservation, biodiversity, and environmental education, because not many other authors have so eloquently captured the essence of conservation and appreciation for all things "natural, wild, and free" as Leopold has.

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