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Study Notes

Aldo Leopold (1887-1948)

AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 30 Dec 2018

Aldo Leopold was an American conservationist who was interested in maintaining wilderness. The concept most associated with him is "the land ethic".

The land ethic is a concept which extends the idea of community to include the non-human world: it is essential to conserve and preserve the environment and what he described as the "biotic community". was published posthumously.

Leopold worked in the Forest Service so conservation was his job, not just a political opinion. He also wrote extensively on the topic of wildlife conservation (although his most famous and influential book was published posthumously: A Sand County Almanac).

This work was largely based on his observations and work on "re-wilding" an area with his family, planting trees and re-establishing prairies, etc.

Leopold was the first person to become a professor of wildlife management. His work on biodiversity and understanding a full "biotic community" has been hugely influential and has led to the return of many predators to areas of the USA where they had previously been extinct, such as the mountain lion. This was because Leopold explored the impact on the rest of the ecosystem when something at the top of the food chain was removed.

While Leopold's main legacy and influence has been quite specifically in the area of nature conservation and the establishment and preservation of wilderness areas, his ideas have also been influential on the environmentalist movement and in thinking about the role of humans in the natural world.

He argued that conservation tended to fail because it still tended to be based on an economic or androcentric model: it was important to get past this and forge a new relationship between humans and the land. If people could appreciate the importance of the whole "biotic community" and develop that "land ethic" then we could protect and conserve wildlife successfully.

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