A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac

The act of protecting or restoring the natural environment. People who conserve are called conservationists. Leopold compares the act of conserving the land to a friendship. It requires loving the land and all its many facets—flora, fauna, predators, and prey—and not simply the beautiful or economically valuable aspects. In an early chapter, Leopold defines a conservationist as someone who wields an axe, and who is aware that “with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of the land.”

Conservation Quotes in A Sand County Almanac

The A Sand County Almanac quotes below are all either spoken by Conservation or refer to Conservation. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time and History  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine Books edition of A Sand County Almanac published in 1966.
Part I: November Quotes

I have read many definitions of what is a conservationist, and written not a few myself, but I suspect that the best one is written not with a pen, but with an axe. It is a matter of what a man thinks about while chopping, or while deciding what to chop. A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke he is writing his signature on the face of his land. Signatures of course differ, whether written with axe or pen, and this is as it should be.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Tools
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part III: The Round River Quotes

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. By land is meant all of the things on, over, or in the earth. Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators; you cannot conserve the waters and waste the ranges; you cannot build the forest and mine the farm. The land is one organism. Its parts, like our own parts, compete with each other and co-operate with each other. The competitions are as much a part of the inner workings as the co-operations. You can regulate them—cautiously—but not abolish them.
The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television, or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: ‘What good is it?’ If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part IV: The Land Ethic Quotes

A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state.

In short, a land ethic changes the role of Home 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.

In human history, we have learned (I hope) that the conqueror role is eventually self-defeating. Why? Because it is implicit in such a role that the conqueror knows, ex cathedra, just what makes the community clock tick, and just what and who is valuable, and what and who is worthless, in community life. It always turns out that he knows neither, and this is why his conquests eventually defeat themselves.

In the biotic community, a parallel situation exists. Abraham knew exactly what the land was for: it was to drip milk and honey into Abraham’s mouth. At the present moment, the assurance with which we regard this assumption is inverse to the degree of our education.

The ordinary citizen today assumes that science knows what makes the community clock tick; the scientist is equally sure that he does not. He knows that the biotic mechanism is so complex that is workings may never be fully understood.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
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Conservation Term Timeline in A Sand County Almanac

The timeline below shows where the term Conservation appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: November
Time and History  Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...not too cold as to make the work unbearable. Leopold considers definitions of what a conservationist is, and wonders if a conservationist is best defined as someone who wields an axe... (full context)
Part III: The Round River
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold compares conservation to a friendship, in that it requires a harmony between humans and the land, and... (full context)
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...deer hunting. Even though both sides of the mountain have benefited from two centuries of conservation, the soil on the side that was formerly clear-cut, and the trees themselves, are still... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold worries that conservation in America only cares about “show pieces,” and prioritizes the preservation of a few flashy... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...make its owners money. He hopes that the next generation can be provided with a “conservation education,” and learn to value the land in more ways than one. (full context)
Part IV: The Land Ethic
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...of land as a community” will soon “penetrate our intellectual life.” He is unhappy that conservation has not fully caught on. He thinks it is an issue not just of “volume”... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...from the government. However, when the five years were up, the farmers stopped maintaining their conservationist practices. The Wisconsin legislature thought maybe farmers would be more motivated to maintain the environment... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold worries, “in our attempt to make conservation easy, we have made it trivial.” (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold observes that American conservation gives much responsibility to the government. Leopold wonders if this is a sustainable model financially... (full context)
Part IV: Wilderness
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...many more of them and tracking the population explosion to the source. Leopold argues that conservation could help restore the health of the land, but admits that much of contemporary conservation... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...roads. To save grizzlies, or to save the wilderness, requires both “a long view of conservation, and a historical perspective.” Leopold hopes that with improved education, more citizens will understand the... (full context)