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Old 08-15-2009, 10:46 AM   #1
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Default A Sand County Almanac (Leopold)

Amazon.com: A Sand County Almanac (Outdoor Essays & Reflections) (9780195146172): Aldo Leopold, Michael Sewell, Kenneth Brower: Books

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/AS...e-gardeners-20
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Old 08-18-2009, 10:57 PM   #2
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One of my favorite classics! If you like this book, you may like things by Bernd Heinrich.
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Old 08-18-2009, 11:19 PM   #3
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Hi gnomenative,

Thanks so much for Heinrich recommendation. We have a thread for Heinrich's Summer World , but no one has commented on it yet. The thread is here if you have any comments for us:
http://www.wildlifegardeners.org/for...-heinrich.html

I think Heinrich has more books in the series, is there another title I should add to our bookshelf?

Finally, welcome to WG! I am delighted to find another reader amongst us.
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Old 08-18-2009, 11:26 PM   #4
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I also loved Bumblebee Economics by Heinrich. Might check that one out- a bit drier than his others, but great early stuff by him!
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Old 08-18-2009, 11:34 PM   #5
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Thanks for the ideas. I've just added Bumblebee Economics and Winter World. Let me know if you think of more titles, or please feel free to add a thread yourself.

Lots of good reading material for the long cold winter!
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Old 01-01-2010, 01:49 PM   #6
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I recently picked up A Sand County Almanac from a local used bookstore, and am I glad I did! I can see why it's considered a classic. Completed and published in 1948, the year of the author's accidental death, it reads surprisingly contemporary. Leopold, a longtime forest ranger and professor of game management, displays a keen understanding of conservation issues such as native and invasive species, biodiversity, soil erosion, wildlife corridors, fire suppression, and the aesthetics of wilderness - issues just as relevant, if not more so, today as they were in his day.

The first half of the book is organized as monthly sketches of life on his Wisconsin property - the subtle interactions among animals, plants, and humans that only a sharp, experienced eye can pick up. The second half of the book consists of observations and reflections on travels and sojourns in natural areas of the western North American continent (Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Arizona, New Mexico, Sonora, Chihuahua, Oregon, Utah, & Manitoba). It's difficult to describe the feeling of reading knowledgeable and poetic observations from 60 years ago about fauna and - especially - flora with which one has developed a close and friendly familiarity. One of the chief pleasures of the wildlife gardener is the knowledge that one is participating in and encouraging patterns of life that have gone on for thousands of years before you and will go on, hopefully, for thousands more. This book is especially adept at tickling that particular fancy.

The book is chock full of quotable observations and insights. Some examples:

Quote:
It is a kind providence that has withheld a sense of history from the thousands of species of plants and animals that have exterminated each other to build the present world. The same kind providence now withholds it from us. Few grieved when the last buffalo left Wisconsin, and few will grieve when the last Silphium follows him to the lush prairies of never-never land. (p. 50)
Quote:
To view the painting, give the river three more weeks of solitude, and then visit the bar on some bright morning just after the sun has melted the daybreak fog. The artist has now laid his colors, and sprayed them with dew. The Eleocharis sod, greener than ever, is now spangled with blue mimulus, pink dragon-head, and the milk-white blooms of Sagittaria. Here and there a cardinal flower thrusts a red spear skyward. At the head of the bar, purple ironweeds and pale pink joe-pyes stand tall against the wall of willows. And if you have come quietly and humbly, as you should to any spot that can be beautiful only once, you may surprise a fox-red deer, standing knee-high in the garden of his delight. (p. 52)
Quote:
To those devoid of imagination, a blank space on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part. (p. 176)
Quote:
The disappearance of plants and animal species without visible cause, despite efforts to protect them, and the irruption of others as pests despite efforts to control them, must, in the absence of simpler explanations, be regarded as symptoms of sickness in the land organism. Both are occurring too frequently to be dismissed as normal evolutionary events. (p. 194)
Leopold's concluding section on "The Land Ethic" was quite far-seeing indeed and should be obligatory reading for every property owner and government official. He foresees the economic burden that assigning all duties of conservation to government alone will create. Government must be responsible for setting some rules and establishing wilderness lands secure from development. But government-sponsored conservation will collapse of its own weight without cooperation from private landowners. To prevent further "sickness in the land organism," we must cultivate a land ethic that goes beyond self-interest to respect for healthy ecosystems for the sake of all.

What would Aldo Leopold think of today's world? In his day, the U.S. Forest Service was still focused on exploiting land for commercial applications. It was pro-grazing, pro-planting, and anti-wilderness. Today that ethic has largely changed, and there are also more lands in public stewardship than ever before. On the other hand, the American population has exploded and with it the scale of residential and commercial development, the paving of roads, and the application of ever more fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide to farmlands. Government policies still encourage the destruction of the prairie through agricultural subsidies. Homeowners are still largely in the grip of Lawn Ideology, or at best plant gardens with alien ornamentals. The native plant movement is still small. The inevitable and desirable growth of global commerce has had as a nasty byproduct the shipping of new invasive species all over the planet. In his day, the chestnut had gone; since then, we have lost most elms and are losing hemlocks and ashes.

Our environment is clearly more degraded in our day than it was in his - but perhaps the trajectory of degradation has become less steep. Our task for the next sixty years is to stop that trajectory altogether, and to bend the curve upward.
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Old 01-01-2010, 05:13 PM   #7
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To this I would also like to recommend "Wasp Farm" and "Life on a Little-Known Planet," both by Howard Ensign Evans, as well as various essays such as "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley.
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Old 01-01-2010, 08:35 PM   #8
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I'll add them to the list!
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