By Tim Maloney, HEC Senior Policy Director
A new documentary film about the life and work of Aldo Leopold has been playing at venues around Indiana recently. A graduate of Yale Forestry School, Leopold is the visionary author of “A Sand County Almanac”, a landmark series of essays about the need for a land ethic – treating the land, soil, water, plants and wildlife as a community to which humans belong, rather than as commodities which we own. Aldo Leopold began developing his views on ecological relationships as a forester for the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona in the early part of the twentieth century. He helped pioneer the idea of wilderness protection, working for establishment of the Gila Wilderness Area, and later helped found the Wilderness Society. In Arizona, and later in Wisconsin where he lived until his death, Leopold was an early practitioner of ecological restoration, developing techniques to restore watersheds and soils damaged by excessive grazing and poor farming practices. His ideas also led to new practices in wildlife management, recognizing that predators are an essential part of healthy ecosystems and provide a necessary control on game populations.
The title for the documentary, Green Fire—Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time, comes from one of his essays: “Thinking Like a Mountain.” In this essay, Leopold describes watching a wolf die after he had shot it. “We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes – something known only to her and the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.”
Co-produced by the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Center for Humans and Nature, and the U.S. Forest Service, Green Fire will be shown on PBS stations next year. And of course, pick up a copy of “A Sand County Almanac” if you haven’t already read it. It remains as inspiring and meaningful as when it was first published in 1949.
The film is showing in West Lafayette tonight. Check the Green Fire website for more information.