Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac

By Anderson, Byron | Electronic Green Journal, January 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac


Anderson, Byron, Electronic Green Journal


Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac By Julianne Lutz Newton Reviewed by Byron Anderson Northern Illinois University, USA Julianne Lutz Newton. Aldo Leopold's Odyssey: Rediscovering the Author of A Sand County Almanac. Island Press/Shearwater Books, 2006. 472 pp. ISBN: 1-59726-045-2 (hardcover); US$32.95.

Aldo Leopold (1867-1948) believed that a citizen "must feel for the soil, water, plants, and animals the same affectionate solicitude he feels for family and friends" (p. 203). This quote, one of many in the book, is from A Sand County Almanac, a literary masterpiece and Leopold's most well known work. Published by Oxford University Press one week before his death, it has since been reprinted and translated into other languages a number of times. Leopold's lifelong work in conservation sought to harmonize nature with a demanding, consuming American culture. His focus was on maintaining soil, the basic natural resource. His extensive observations and research led him to believe that "land was healthy when it retained over long periods of time its ability to cycle nutrients efficiently and continuously" (p. 338). This nutrient cycling, visualized in his "biotic pyramid," showed food chains as living channels which conducted energy upward and the death and decay which returned energy downward to the soil.

Newton's focus is on Leopold's professional life, with background reflections from his earlier years. His odyssey mostly begins at twenty-two years of age, when he took a job as a forest ranger. After serving in this position for fifteen years, he returned to the Midwest, settling in Wisconsin. He continued working in various positions related to forestry and wildlife until 1933 when he accepted the position of professor of game management at the University of Wisconsin, the first such position. Leopold was also engaged with outside activities involving the environment, for example, as a founding member of the Wilderness Society and serving for a time as president. …

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