A Sand County Almanac

A visualization of the ecosystem that places soil on the bottom, then plants, then herbivores, then omnivores, and finally, at the top, apex predators. Leopold has invented this visualization in the hopes that picturing the natural environment as a solid object will make people more empathetic towards it.

Land Pyramid Quotes in A Sand County Almanac

The A Sand County Almanac quotes below are all either spoken by Land Pyramid or refer to Land Pyramid. 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 II: Arizona and New Mexico Quotes

Since the beginning, time had gnawed at the basaltic hulk of the Escudilla, wasting, waiting, and building. Time built three things on the old mountain, a venerable aspect, a community of minor animals and plants, and a grizzly.
The government trapper who took the grizzly knew he had made Escudilla safe for cows. He did not know he had toppled the spire of an edifice a-building since the morning stars sang together.

The bureau chief who sent the trapper was a biologist versed in the architecture of evolution, but he did not k now that spires might be as important as cows. He did not foresee that within two decades the cow country would become tourist country, and as such have greater need of bears than of beefsteaks.
The Congressmen who voted money to clear the ranges of bears were the songs of pioneers. They acclaimed the superior virtues of the frontiersman, but hey strove with might and main to make an end of the frontier.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 144
Explanation and Analysis:
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Part III: The Round River Quotes

In our educational system, the biotic continuum is seldom pictured to us as a stream. From our tenderest years we are fed facts about the soils, floras, and faunas that comprise the channel of Round River (biology), and their origins in time (geology and evolution), and about the technique of exploiting them (agriculture and engineering). But the concept of a current with droughts and freshets, backwaters and bars, is left to inference. To learn the hydrology of the biotic stream we must think at right angles to evolution and examine the collective behavior of biotic materials. This calls for a reversal of specialization; instead of learning more and more about less and less, we must learn more and more about the whole biotic landscape.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Round River
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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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

The thumbnail sketch of land as an energy circuit conveys three basic ideas:

(1) That land is not merely soil.

(2) That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may or may not.

(3) That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen.

These ideas, collectively, raise two basic issues: Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:
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Land Pyramid Term Timeline in A Sand County Almanac

The timeline below shows where the term Land Pyramid appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part IV: The Land Ethic
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...the land seem more accessible, or more tangible, Leopold proposes the idea of a “ land pyramid .” This is a visualization of the land as a physical pyramid. Energy flows from... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Each level of the land pyramid eats and receives energy from organisms on the level below, except for plants, which also... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
When the earth was younger, the land pyramid was simpler, but as more species have evolved it has gotten higher. Leopold argues that... (full context)
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold lists a few changes humankind has brought to the land pyramid , including the elimination of many apex predators, thereby shortening food chains. These changes also... (full context)