Use this space to continue the discussion on land ethics and land aesthetics. You may share your response to the free write topic on where/how your personal land ethic developed or thoughts on any of the questions we discussed in class. Happy pondering!
I had what I believe to be a fortunate childhood in the sense that I had immediate access to nature. Through all the seasons I was in some way interacting with my local landscape. I can remember appealing to my brother and friends once to get off the couch, stop playing video games, and come outside to play.
My friends and I would make trails, hike creeks, and dam them. In the Fall we would admire the foliage, and in the winter would sled and burrow in the snow. Sadly, as I grew up, the natural environment began to lose its appeal to me. I would swim, do homework, or relax, all of which hindered the amount of time that I was able to spend in the natural environment. I guess that the land ethic that I hold now comes from the childhood nostalgia I have for a simpler existence with the landscape. I want to be able to go back to a place where I can find so much in the landscape, for it truly was integral in my upbringing. My appreciation for land is thus mimetic and illusory in the sense that it comes from my imagined perception of the land, rather than its physicality.
My personal land ethic developed throughout my life, but I would say it came primarily from the influence of my dad and his dad. My granddad was a forester and instilled a strong land ethic in his children from a very early age–through family camping trips and hikes which included a lot of informal natural history education and encouragement to explore and ask questions. My parents, but especially my dad then did the same with my siblings and me. Probably the most significant piece of my actually caring about land, as opposed to just knowing at the intellectual level that something was right to do, came from being outside since I was really little, having a back yard to play in, and living somewhere where I had lots of access to woods, the sand rocks, trails, lakes, rivers, etc. (rural central Washington state). A primary component of most of our family vacations when I was growing up was being active outside, often in national parks, where preservation, ecological awareness, and caring about naturally beautiful and diverse places are top priorities and highly propagated values.
I think that fun is a key aspect for kids to develop a land ethic. Their practice of what Leopold considers “right actions” will at first not explicitly ethics. Over time they might develop into a land ethic, but as children, I would say we don’t think enough about all of the implications of our actions to be able to call them ethics. I remember as a kid I was really short, too short, in fact, to be able to reach the light switches in my house. My dad understood the importance of cultivating good habits early on, though, and so fashioned a stick for me with a piece of wood on the end with which I could reach the switches to turn off the lights when I left a room. It meant that I felt empowered by being able to do things that taller (read: older and cooler–my brother and sister) people could, but I also had a new toy that made something like saving energy fun. If several people were in a room, I would rush to be the one to turn off the light when we left.
While a land ethic most definitely must include more than just simple energy-saving practices, this example shows that, at least for me, childhood experience and parental influence both play a crucial role in making the development of a land ethic later on possible.