contributed by Hank
Aldo Leopold, though born in Burlington, Iowa, is claimed by many of us as a Wisconsinite. And why not? He ran the forest products lab in Madison, and later became a professor of “ecology” at the University of Wisconsin, where he was in charge of the arboretum. His famous book, “A Sand County Almanac” was inspired by experiences along the Wisconsin River.
Leopold’s pioneering work in what is now called “restoration ecology,” pointed the way for a sustainable future. Although he died in 1948, he is still way ahead of our time. He was that rare combination of scientist and poet whose writings carried great depth of meaning in a deceptively simple prose.
Leopold’s famous Land Ethic:
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Our downfall is in considering land a repository of resources for our taking. Or as Leopold said, “Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Perhaps nowhere is this “commodity” perspective more evident than in the so-called “CAFO’s” (confined animal feeding operations) so predominant in Wisconsin these days. So many animals are crowded into small spaces, that liberal use of antibiotics becomes a necessity. The amount of manure produced by just a couple of CAFO’s is comparable to that of large cities. This manure in liquid form is simply hauled in huge tankers and dumped over vast acreage as “fertilizer.” But mere fertilizers don’t normally serve as vehicles for a bothersome brew that can contain, among other things, artificial hormones and cleaning compounds. This potion sullies the countryside, finding its way into streams, lakes, and groundwater.
There is also an aromatic element, infusing the air across Kewaunee County with a pungent odor. Some have referred to this as smelling Wisconsin’s “dairy-air.” Pun intended.
The animals in confinement, whether chickens, pigs, or cows, are also reduced to mere commodity. These so-called “animal units” live an awful life callously crammed into cages. In some cases they can’t even turn around.
It’s been pointed out that farm subsidies make this kind of “factory farming” possible. Actual “family farms” are squeezed out, despite being a more efficient means of dairy production, more sustainable, and less harmful to their surroundings.
Conservation in Leopold’s view was far more than mere protection of native flora and fauna. He saw it as an affirmation of community. The human connection to land is crucial.
A restored landscape when done “right” is stable, diverse, and beautiful. Examples can be spotted in Wisconsin, where modest family farms dot the countryside along with forests, meadows, and clean streams.
If we are to provide a future for our own grandchildren and for their grandchildren, we had better change our consumptive ways and get back to a meaningful relationship with the land. It starts in our own home landscapes… minimize use of toxins and maximize habitat. Buy dairy products from dairies that are certified BGH free… that is, that don’t purchase from CAFOs.
“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.”
Support family farms. Buy dairy products free of rBGH…
rBGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone, genetically engineered and injected into dairy cows to make them produce more milk. Don’t give this stuff to your family! For Wisconsin dairy products free of rBGH enter the attached address and click on Wisconsin:
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