Leopold observes how golf went from being a sport for the rich to a sport accessible to everyone. He compares golf to hunting and fishing, which he refers to as the “most universal of all sports,” but which are not practiced universally. He laments that exposure and access to wildlife is not seen “in terms of social welfare,” and that access is limited to those who live in nature, and those who are wealthy enough to travel to it.
Leopold is concerned with the accessibility of the landscape, and enjoys many outdoor sports because they serve as an entry point that makes the landscape interesting and accessible to others. He understands that for those who do not live near to nature, and who cannot afford to travel to it, the outdoors is a luxury. Leopold, however, feels it should be more of a right.
Leopold argues that anyone who cannot enjoy nature, either by hunting in it, or photographing it, or tracking birds or animals in it, “is hardly normal.” He refers to these people as “supercivilized,” and compares their lives without nature to people who live without “work, play,” or “love.” He believes access to wildlife is an inalienable right, and those without it are deprived.
Just as Leopold believes that too much education can blind a person to the natural world, he believes that too much civilization can prevent a person from appreciating the land. He thinks of a relationship with the land as being as essential as human love, and so is willing to fight to get more people access to the natural world.
The wilderness is being destroyed, and Leopold explains that the destruction of the wilderness destroys this inalienable right to experience it. Nothing can replace the loss of wilderness, not technology and not civilization.
Leopold wants to preserve the natural world both for its own sake and for the sake of the people who he believes deserve to experience it.
Leopold looks to his notes and recalls that he has seen over a thousand geese during their fall migration. He wonders how to quantify and determine the value of the joy their presence has brought him. He wonders if “goose music” and art should be valued in the same way. He asks whether a goose’s song is valuable in the same way a poem or a painting is, and determines that goose music is indeed a kind of art. Poets and hunters are both in search of the same “thrill to beauty.” Critics and hunters then both attempt to “reduce that beauty to possession.”
Leopold often wonders how he should look for value in the landscape. He frequently writes about his love for geese, and here compares their contribution to the world as similar to a poem or a song. Like manmade art, the geese are beautiful, and therefore have a value. More than that, however, geese cannot be replicated. Leopold understands that geese, and the natural world generally, is special because it is irreplaceable.
Leopold reiterates that he thinks hunting and fishing are natural, instinctual, and important activities. They are essential access points for people to begin to experience the environment. Hunting and fishing require self-control and self-monitored, ethical behavior. Additionally, hunting in particular requires participants to use other animals, like horses and dogs, and requires them to treat these animals with kindness and respect.
Leopold again voices his support for outdoor sports and hobbies, pointing out that he feels these activities are valuable because they force people out into nature, and make them think deeply about humankind’s relationship to the natural world.
Leopold concludes the chapter by imagining a future where his three sons, whom he hopes will be infected with “hunting fever,” are left with a wilderness stripped of anything wild. He hopes that when his children grow up there will still be deer in the hills, and goose music in the air.
Leopold has received so much joy from spending time in the wilderness, and he hopes his generation can preserve it well enough so that his sons can have a similar experience. Presumably he has passed on to them his love of the natural world and his sense of respect for the land.