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The

EXTINCTION
of
MANKIND

As I read the short essay by Aldo Leopold I couldnt help but wonder about
what would bring about the extinction of mankind. Would it be because man
(and woman) has overdeveloped the land and made it useless to growing
crops or feeding our protein requirements? Would it because we are too
progressive and have used chemicals to control our weeds and pests? Are we
going to become over cautious and not allow for any use of the land at all?
Are we going to establish biotic zones of no return that are only areas of land
used for growing our food? Aldo Leopold also describes the ecological
conscience as a state of balance between mankinds need for growth both
economically and ecologically as way to sustain ourselves and our
environment. What does he mean when he says that in an attempt to make
conservation easy we have made it trivial? He is asking us to be more
aware of ourselves and what we do to our surroundings. Aldo Leopold asks us
to collectivity become more socially responsible as it relates to our
environment and Leopold expresses his disdain at the fact that our social
conscious doesnt extend to the environment that supports us.
Aldo Leopold gives a good deal of time and effort to criticizing the
governments role in the complicity of its citizens and its conversations
efforts. He believes that people are only motivated by greed and that the
conservations efforts of the 1940s are predicated by the governments
ability to provide handouts. As soon as the handouts are given the peoples
desire to comply with some type of conservation effort immediately vanish.
Leopold seems to outline his desired ethics involved in providing a clear,

sustainable and successful policy for providing the conservation community


with the tools it requires for growth. His efforts have succeeded in bringing
awareness to the issues but the governmental changes required to have
sustainable conversation policies is still elusive.
My own conversation policies have been developed by ignorance and
usage of the environment. I consider myself a city boy but I have no basis for
that label. I grew up in a concrete jungle and find myself learning how to be
at home in nature. I dont have the stamina and the strength to be an
environmentalist and I have little desire to relive the concrete adventures of
my youth. Recently I visited the Rocky Mountain National Forest in Colorado
and followed it up with a visit to downtown Denver. I thought I would be more
at home in Denver but I struggled with even finding a place to eat. I became
very enamored with the Rocky Mountain National Forest and I often think
about the lifestyle I have developed and the opportunities I could have had
by becoming more aware of the environment.
The American Indian had a relationship with the land and the
environment that has been lost forever. Leopold describes an ethic of living
with the land as partners with mutual respect. Our society has not embraced
this philosophy and does just the opposites by controlling the land and the
perfect example is how we have a mentality to control and become the
masters of our environments. We dam the rivers to create flood control and
we drain the wetlands to settle areas to grow food. This seems like we are

doing the right thing because floods can damage crops and kill people. what
does this really do for the environment and does this power and control help
us as a society in our desire to become in step with environment? If we
taught in school that we live in harmony with the environment and not in
competition with the environment we would make huge progress into our
conservation efforts.
In the United States it seems as if our land use policies change with
every administration. The government doesnt really have a sustainable
policy that is related to the health of the environment. Our policies on coal,
mining for other precious metals, and pollution seems to change with the
wind and the current economic policies. Should our economics determine
how we treat the land? How can it not. Maslows hierarchy of needs
determine how we will approach the land. Do you have the ability to
conserve the environment before you eat? Never will that happen if youre
hungry and cold. As a society we have become better at recognizing those
needs because we dont have to hunt and grow our food and we can
recognize that if we step back and conserve more that there will be
something for future generations. Thats easy for those of us that just go to
the grocery store to say but what the person who doesnt have a grocery
store? How does population control play into this equation? What do we do
as a species to control growth and limit consumption and then again how do
you balance that with our society norms that say more consumption is

better? We can have the same obligation to our environment if we try to find
the balance between economic growth and conservation.
To extend a land ethic thought process to all the members of a
community would require that humans allow for a live and let live mentality.
People would have to change their thought process and allow for a more
conscious thought process as it relates to conservation and the environment.
People would need to take an active role in their lives and the community of
organisms, plants, trees and other wildlife in their surroundings. I would
have to change my daily activities and become aware of what and how my
actions affect the local communities of life.
The individual members of a biotic communities need to take
precedence over the needs of the community as a whole. An invasive
species should have the same rights as a non-invasive species until that
species begins to change the structure of the community. If you compare
that to humans and the effect on the environment you may want to expel the
human experience from the biotic community until balance or as Leopold
described it as harmony is reestablished. The problem with that is evident to
me because we without humans a certain re-balance will happen
automatically. That rebalance will come back with another dominant species
taking control that may or may not be as invasive as the human experience.
Leopold also describes the beauty of the biotic community in which an
ethical responsibility exists between the participants in the community and

questions the ethics or beauty of the community. Why cant you have both?
Humans need to find the balance that exists between both.
My opinions about Leopold stem mostly from a self-interest in
economics, comfort and functionality. I like to have green grass in my yard
that doesnt have a number of insects that invade my home. I like to see the
workers have jobs that allow them to buy the things that I sell so I can sell
more of them. If Im not selling things, then Im not buying the things that
make my economic cycle complete. I have to eat, I have to sleep, I need to
be safe and I need the balance that allows for the conservation economic
engine to flow. One is tied to the other and we may think that the biotic
community is tied to just organisms but in reality all things are tied to one
another. Without the human community with all its flaws there would be no
need for the biotic community.
Aldo Leopold seems to have a view on conservation that at times
appear to be outdated, not based on current scientific facts and very narrow
minded. As most conservationists will agree the earth would be better off if
man never appeared. The earth would be populated by beasts that roam the
land unharmed and isolated from mass extinction. The problem is that is a
view that isnt very practical either. One thing for certain is that the earth
has predators and invasive species that take over large geographical areas
that become their own biotic ecosystems. Mankind has only done the same
at a scale that continues to grow as the human species continues to grow in

numbers. You will see that that mankind with its manifest destiny mentality
will continue to overtake geographical areas and adjust them to suit their
needs of safety, food and comfort. Would you expect anything else from the
dominant and only intelligent species on a planet? The economic impact on
society from a conservationist point of view is very myopic as well. Without
the growth of population, the economic wheel stops turning and our
capitalistic society begins to fail. As a human being you cant help but
understand that by doing what is best for you inevitably helps others. You
grow, you trade you share when you have more than what you need. When
you dont reap the benefits of your labor and someone else does where does
that lead to in our society?