Aldo Leopold: A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Conservation and Ecology: (Library of America #238)

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Since his death in 1948, Aldo Leopold has been increasingly recognized as one of the indispensable figures of American environmentalism. A pioneering forester, sportsman, wildlife manager, and ecologist, he was also a gifted writer whose farsighted land ethic is proving increasingly relevant in our own time. Now, Leopold’s essential contributions to our literature––some hard-to-find or previously unpublished––are gathered in a single volume for the first time. Here is his classic A Sand County Almanac, hailed––with Thoreau’s Walden and Carson’s Silent Spring––as one of the main literary influences on the modern environmental movement. Published in 1949, it is still astonishing today: a vivid, firsthand, philosophical tour de force. Along with Sand County are more than fifty articles, essays, and lectures exploring the new complexities of ecological science and what we would now call environmental ethics. Leopold’s sharp-eyed, often humorous journals are illustrated here for the first time with his original photographs, drawings, and maps. Also unique to this collection is a selection of over 100 letters, most of them never before published, tracing his personal and professional evolution and his efforts to foster in others the love and sense of responsibility he felt for the land.

Published in 1949, shortly after the author's death, A Sand County Almanac is a classic of nature writing, widely cited as one of the most influential nature books ever published. Writing from the vantage of his summer shack along the banks of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixes essay, polemic, and memoir in his book's pages. In one famous episode, he writes of killing a female wolf early in his career as a forest ranger, coming upon his victim just as she was dying, "in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes.... I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, 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." Leopold's road-to-Damascus change of view would find its fruit some years later in his so-called land ethic, in which he held that nothing that disturbs the balance of nature is right. Much of Almanac elaborates on this basic premise, as well as on Leopold's view that it is something of a human duty to preserve as much wild land as possible, as a kind of bank for the biological future of all species. Beautifully written, quiet, and elegant, Leopold's book deserves continued study and discussion today. --Gregory McNamee

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