Green Fire

Green Fire

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.  Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold bench made as part of an Eagle Scout project to place in Christ the Lord Lutheran Church prairie.

‘Green Fire’ tells the story of the Midwest’s legendary environmentalist, Aldo Leopold.  Northern Kane County Wild Ones showed this full-length documentary film Thursday evening at our January meeting.   Aldo Leopold–scientist, naturalist, teacher, philosopher, writer, and poet– is the true father of the Midwest ecology movement.   Born in Burlington, Iowa, he earned a master’s degree in Forestry from Yale University; upon graduation in 1909, he joined the U.S. Forestry Service.  First assigned to the Arizona Territory, where he met and married his wife, he began teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1928.  It was during this period that he developed his land ethic.

The land ethic simply simply enlarges the boundries of 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.

Tears came to my eyes during the movie as Leopold decried the assault on the environment at that time–what would he think now?  Blowing the tops off mountains to mine coal, tearing up the land and endangering or poisoning our most important resource–water–to mine natural gas, or requesting permission to mine sand adjacent to Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County in our state.

And why do they want to do this?

Mississippi Sand LLC still needs mining permits from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. If the permits are granted, the company would mine sandstone in about 300 acres next to the popular state park. The area’s sandstone is in high demand because it is ideal for use in the oil and natural gas extraction process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The sand is combined with water and chemicals to unlock otherwise inaccessible reserves.                               January 13, 2012|By Erin Meyer, Tribune Reporter

According to John McKee, president of the Starved Rock Audubon Society, the pit, which would stretch along Illinois Route 71, poses the most serious threat to the park in more than 40 years. “That hole is going to be there forever. This land (will be) destroyed,” said McKee, a naturalist who rarely leaves home without his bird-watching gear. “Some of (the wildlife) might be spooked away,” McKee said, as his wife, Cindy, trained a telescope on killdeer and gulls resting on mud flats in the Illinois River. “The noise is going to disturb the critters and the visitors to this part of the park.” Other concerns among environmentalists include pollution and the impact on nearby waterways. Tensions over the proposed mine have been running high since November, when a public hearing on the issue drew a crowd too large to fit in the county’s regular meeting place. County officials rescheduled the hearing and rented out a Knights of Columbus banquet hall. Over two days in December, hundreds of people for and against the project publicly commented, and on Dec. 15, the LaSalle County Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously in favor of Mississippi Sand. According to the state park’s website, the sandstone-rich rock formations were laid down in a huge shallow inland sea more than 425 million years ago.                      January 11, 2012|By Erin Meyer and Becky Schlikerman, Chicago Tribune reporters

Have we gone mad?  Don’t these peple have chlldren and grandchildren?

The case for a land ethic would appear hopeless but for the minority which is in obvious revolt against these ‘modern’ trends.  

The ‘key-log’ which must be moved to release the evolutionary process for an ethic is simply this: quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem.  Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.  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.

Aldo Leopold

The  DVD is available for purchase from

And if you haven’t read A Sand County Almanac, put it at the top of your reading list.  It’s available at the Aldo Leopold site, as well as bookstores and online bookstores.

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