Who Was Aldo Leopold?

Who was the man behind the Leopold Bench?

Alex Gardner October 31, 2013

It is inconceivable to me that an ethical relation to land can exist without love, respect, and admiration for land, and a high regard for its value. By value, I of course mean something far broader than mere economic value; I mean value in the philosophical sense.

—Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Aldo Leopold may not be a household name, but his support for conservation and sustainability in the early 20th century led to the modern green movement.

Through his more than 500 published articles, his work at the U.S. Forest Service, and his time as a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Leopold educated society on caring for the earth. Leopold’s work inspired individuals to consider the philosophy and ethics of man’s relationship to the world, to consider how man can nurture the environment rather than take from it. He held humans responsible for the health of animals, plants, water, and soil, and acknowledged that they are all an integral part of “the land.”

Although he was a prolific writer, Leopold taught the most through example. To get away from the “bigger and better society,” as he put it, Leopold would venture with his family to “the Shack,” a renovated chicken coop that sat on acres of rundown land on the Wisconsin River. Leopold and his family would reside in “the Shack” during breaks from school, and together they filled their time and the once-barren land by planting trees. Slowly, wildlife came from forests nearby, and the desolate property became a natural oasis.

Leopold’s contributions to society continued after his death in 1948 when an assemblage of his essays was published as A Sand County Almanac. More than 2 million copies of his almanac have been sold. Leopold’s children, Starker, Luna, Nina, Carl, and Estella, also kept their father’s legacy alive through environmental advocacy.

Leopold’s bench design, a seat that blends in and exists peacefully among gardens, represents Leopold’s view of how humans should interact with nature. His life reminds us to sit quietly, observe our surroundings, and recognize we are all a part of “the land.”

Photo credit:  AldoLeopold.org

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