In an essay by conservation biologist and Aldo Leopold biographer Curt Meine, re-published in the summer 2018 issue of The Leopold Outlook, the author reminds us that the relationship between humans and the world is reciprocal. “As we work to heal the Earth, the Earth heals us.”
Meine recalls that Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife conservation in America and pioneering figure in ecological restoration in the 1930s and 40s, noted that “Conservation, viewed in its entirety, is the slow and laborious unfolding of a new relationship between people and land.” Meine observes, “Conservation has evolved continually over the last century in response to the complex realities of social and environmental change. . . . Now, however, conservation finds itself caught in an intense and persistent vortex. Much of the debate involves our understanding of ecosystem change, the human role in affecting those changes, and the perils and potential of new technologies to respond to change.” <<Continued>>
Since Leopold’s time, the rate of global environmental change has accelerated dramatically, altering the context and scope of restoration that is needed. Now we see what Leopold called “land health” in terms of resilience, restoration, and responsibility.
“Land restoration and stewardship, and caring for people and our human communities, remain utterly essential if we are to build the world we know we need,” says Meine, “for generations to come. . . . Conservation’s unique role and responsibility is to see connections within and across landscapes. Restoration is relevant at every point along the spectrum of human impacts . . . but restoration will mean, and require, different things at different points along that spectrum. Restoration now seeks to integrate and meet multiple social and ecological goals . . . and is increasingly undertaken through new modes of collaboration” and coordination. Ecological restoration will continually evolve, and it will be serving a land ethic that is itself continually evolving.
Meine’s essay appears in the summer 2018 issue of The Leopold Outlook, available from the Aldo Leopold Foundation. --Chuck Roe, President Southern Conservation Partners