Lords of Nature

Lords of Nature

Lords of Nature

In “The Land Ethic,” a chapter of A Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold wrote: “Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.” He noted that conservation guidelines at the time boiled down to: “obey the law, vote right, join some organizations and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land; the government will do the rest.” (p. 243-244)

He continued: “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

“This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

Lords of Nature presents the story of a science now discovering the great carnivores as revitalizing forces of nature, and a society now learning tolerance for the beasts they had once banished.

If you missed the airing on WOSU TV on Sunday, Oct. 10 at 7pm, you can set your DVR or VCR to record it Oct. 15 at 1am.

Dating back to the 1930′s observations by Aldo Leopold, a mounting body of research from all corners of the globe reveals top predators as key drivers of the planet’s stability and diversity of life. But there is also the obvious question of whether and how to incorporate the big predators into societies facing conflicts and fears with their return.

Leopold again: My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

– Scott