Finding the Balance

People rely on policies alone to fix issues, but it seems that not everyone is happy with the results. Individuals are capable of solving small parts but can never find a true solution. The book An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, published in 2006, Pollan discovers solutions in finding beauty in nature and treating it in a just way. He also finds value in what he eats and I think that is what we need more of in our society. Everyday, people are industrializing food systems and treating produce and livestock as part of a production rather than as a living organism. It’s about time for people to reevaluate the way in which we look at farming systems for produce.

In 1949’s A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold set forth his most enduring idea, the ‘land ethic’, a moral responsibility of humans to the natural world. Aldo Leopold’s land ethic idea is extremely relevant in today’s society. Ethics deal with morality and an inherent sense of what’s right and wrong. Leopold cites the Ten Commandments as an example of a set of moral standards that help define rights and wrongs in the context of a relationship between individuals. Leopold also talks about ethics between people and their communities, citing the examples of the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would do unto yourself) and the concept of democracy as foundations that inform our societal code of conduct. The land ethic, Leopold argues, is the missing piece in what he calls the ethical sequence.

Leopold understood that ethics direct individuals to cooperate with each other for the mutual benefit of all. One of his philosophical achievements was the idea that this community should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, and animals, what he calls “collectively: the land.” Leopold writes, “That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethic” (Leopold). This recognition implies that individuals play an important role in protecting and preserving the health of this expanded definition of a community. He goes on to state, “A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land” (258). Central to Leopold’s philosophy is the assertion to “quit thinking about decent land use as solely an economic problem” (2). While recognizing the influence economics have on decisions, Leopold understood that ultimately, our economic well being could not be separated from the well being of our environment. Therefore, he believed it was critical that people have a close personal connection to the land.

Observation is really the only way to derive knowledge from a surrounding environment. Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold are both experts in the field of observation. They view their natural surroundings in a prudent and insightful way. They see observation as a powerful catalyst for discovery and as a key part of life. Dillard states, “I think that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will sense them. The least we can do is try to be there” (10).  When Dillard says “we”, she is urging all people of the earth to go out and observe, or at least to sense the grace and beauty that exists in their own environment.

Intricacy in nature is infinite; it is only limited by perception. Our ability to perceive quality in nature starts with the present and will go as far as we let it. Leopold writes, “It is fortunate, perhaps, that no matter how intently one studies the little Drabas of the woods and meadows, one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them” (35). Leopold says this about Drabas, but it can be applied to all natural things. It is impossible to perceive everything about anything, but as Leopold points out it is fortunate. It is fortunate because it means that perception of beauty in nature is limitless in its complexity. The successive stages of the beautiful are never ending. Perception of beauty can expand by understanding the intricacy. The fringe can spread with history, meaning, and detail, but there will be more. Each detail unlocks a mystery, and each fact summons a question. So this mystery must just be included as part of natures beauty.




Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac. Random House Publishing Group, 1966.

Dillard, Annie. (1999). Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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