“A view of land and people…”
Compiled by Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation, and Linette Bernard, Feathers & Ink
Iowa has natural treasures, the United States has natural treasures, but those treasures are as uniquely global as they are local. Soil is one of those great treasures that give us life. The diverse living ecosystem under our feet, provides food security, nutrition, medicine, is an ally with climate change, and is the basis of all things - In Iowa, we once called it Black Gold.
The United Nations has been celebrating soil for all of 2015. Globally, soils are in danger because of expanding cities, deforestation, unsustainable land use and management practices, pollution, overgrazing, and changes in weather patterns. The current rate of soil degradation threatens water quality and the ability for people, worldwide, to have sustainable agriculture, and food security. Everything is connected.
Soils are so important… did you know:
Healthy soils are needed for healthy food production
Soils support biodiversity, about one-quarter of all living things are directly supported by soil
Soils store and filter water and this helps during times of flooding and drought
Soils play a key role in the carbon cycle
Soils are a non-renewable resource – in our lifetime anyway – and soil conservation efforts are necessary for a sustainable future (PDF)
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) International Year of Soil
Monthly activities to learn about and celebratesoil from the Soil Science Society of America
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture is a good source for articles on soil
Within the history of Iowa, there have been a few well known, forward-thinking pioneers of conservation. Through observation, working with the land, and in-depth teachings about original beliefs and changes of beliefs over time, we would like to introduce you to Aldo Leopold, acknowledged by many as the father of wildlife conservation.
Dennis Keeney, first director of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture writes, “Aldo Leopold has given the world great concepts linking the arts and sciences to the natural world. These thoughts developed over his lifetime, culminating in “The Land Ethic,” the final chapter in his epic book, A Sand County Almanac. There is no doubt that soil was central to his thinking on the harmony of people and the land.” - See more of Keeney’s thoughts about ‘Leopold on Soil” here.
"The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land... 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."
Did you know Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa? Learn more about Aldo and his life’s works:
The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture More about Aldo Leopold including an extensive listing of works
The Aldo Leopold Foundation - AldoLeopold Legacy
The Aldo Leopold Archives from the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Remembering Aldo Leopold, Visionary Conservationist and Writer (NPR article and 7-minute audio from March 10, 2013)
Important Iowa Conservationists – Aldo Leopold is featured on pages 14-15
Burlington, Iowa Leopold Heritage Group sponsors a variety of local projects centered on the idea of promoting the legacy of Aldo Leopold and encouraging people to think about their interactions with the natural world.
"Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching- even when doing the wrong thing is legal."
Many, many authors, conservation professionals, land managers, and even elected officials have noted the elegance of Aldo Leopold’s writing. His style of writing blended with his keen observations and sound science make for powerful learning tools.
Using Leopold in teaching:
"One of the anomalies of modern ecology is the creation of two groups, each of which seems barely aware of the existence of the other. The one studies the human community, almost as if it were a separate entity, and calls its findings sociology, economics and history. The other studies the plant and animal community and comfortably relegates the hodge-podge of politics to the liberal arts. The inevitable fusion of these two lines of thought will, perhaps, constitute the outstanding advance of this century."
Have you read a Sand County Almanac? I think it’s time to find my copy and a warm spot in the sun…
Thank you to the Leopold Scholars, The Aldo Leopold Foundation, and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture for making sure future generations know, understand, and appreciate the uniqueness of Aldo Leopold and his message. We simply compiled highlights here in hopes that if you’ve not read A Sand County Almanac, you will be inspired to do so.