A Sand County Almanac

A Sand County Almanac

Leopold defines the wilderness as “the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.” Wilderness varies depending on its location, its flora, and its fauna, but all wildernesses are necessarily untouched by humans—a natural and unspoiled landscape. Leopold focuses especially on the ways in which building roads through wilderness areas to make them more accessible to the public ruins their status as wilderness.

Wilderness Quotes in A Sand County Almanac

The A Sand County Almanac quotes below are all either spoken by Wilderness or refer to Wilderness. 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 IV: Wilderness Quotes

Wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.

Wilderness was never a homogenous raw material. It was very diverse, and the resulting artifacts are very diverse. These differences in the end-product are known as cultures. The rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.
For the first time in the history of the human species, two changes are now impending. One is the exhaustion of wilderness in the more habitable portions of the globe. The other is the world-wide hybridization of cultures through modern transport and industrialization. Neither can be prevented, and perhaps should be, but the question arises weather, by some slight amelioration of the impending changes, certain values can be preserved that would otherwise be lost.

To the laborer in the sweat of his labor, the raw stuff on his anvil is an adversary to be conquered. So was wilderness an adversary to the pioneer.

But to the laborer in repose, able for the moment to cast a philosophical eye on his world, that same raw stuff is something to be loved and cherished, because it gives definition and meaning to his life. This is a plea for the preservation of some tag-ends of wilderness, as museum pieces, for the edification of those who may one day wish to see, feel, or study the origins of their cultural inheritance.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 264
Explanation and Analysis:
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Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility. The shallow-minded modern who has lost his rootage in the land assumes that he has already discovered what is important; it is such who prate of empires, political or economic, that will last a thousand years. It is only the scholar who appreciates that all history consists of successive excursions from a single starting-point, to which man returns again and again to organize yet another search for a durable scale of values. It is only the scholar who understands why the raw wilderness gives definition and meaning to the human enterprise.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Page Number: 279
Explanation and Analysis:
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Wilderness Term Timeline in A Sand County Almanac

The timeline below shows where the term Wilderness appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: October
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...hunts are stolen,” by which he means the best hunts are those in a far-off wilderness where others have not hunted before, or else in a private place close to home,... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
Wandering through the wilderness, Leopold comes across an old abandoned farm. He can tell when it was abandoned because... (full context)
Part II: Wisconsin
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...marsh that is truly wild and inaccessible is worthless. He alleges that, unfortunately, to appreciate wilderness “we must see and fondle” and therefore destroy the wilderness we were trying to protect. (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Leopold considers childhood and the wilderness after some young men canoe past him on a river. He sees that, for them,... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold remembers his own childhood. Going down a nearby river, he felt that the wilderness was unimpressive, interrupted by docks and cabins. On a wider scale, much of the wilderness... (full context)
Part II: Arizona and New Mexico
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...wildness is the salvation of the world,” but perhaps it is the danger of the wilderness, not the comfort, that saves. (full context)
Part II: Chihuahua and Sonora
Time and History  Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold offers some advice: he argues that a person should never return to a wilderness they loved when they were young. The golden lily will become “gilded,” and returning “tarnishes... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
...fat. However, there wasn’t a lot of water, and most of it was salty. The wilderness was so wild it did not yet have place names. Leopold recalls seeing flocks of... (full context)
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...a river in the Sierra Madre mountain range, Leopold recalls the “pulsing harmony” of the wilderness. Most rivers have been, in Leopold’s mind, misused. Even when wilderness areas are converted into parks,... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...to live in harmony. In the Gavilan region, indigenous people lived in and with the wilderness for many years. He can see the ruins of their buildings, and understands that they,... (full context)
Part III: Wildlife in American Culture
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...However, he concedes that cropping—that is, reintroducing animals to fish or hunt into a former wilderness—does provide a cultural substitute, as it requires the cropper to remember the man-earth relationship, and... (full context)
Part III: Goose Music
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
The wilderness is being destroyed, and Leopold explains that the destruction of the wilderness destroys this inalienable... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Part IV: Wilderness
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold defines wilderness as the diverse “raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.”... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Much of the American wilderness has already been destroyed. Leopold gives a list of wilderness areas that have been lost,... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...and other modern developments. He bemoans predator control, which clears apex predators out of a wilderness. This leads to too many deer or elk, which destroy the vegetation. Although human hunters... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...that conflict between humans and animals is an essential part of human culture, and public wildernesses are a way for people to access this “virile and primitive” skill through hunting and... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Healthy wilderness is valuable for its ability to be used as a comparison to sick wilderness, and... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...be set aside, free of livestock and roads. To save grizzlies, or to save the wilderness, requires both “a long view of conservation, and a historical perspective.” Leopold hopes that with... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold points out that “wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow.” Although there are various organizations dedicated... (full context)
Part IV: Conservation Esthetic
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...has become a self-destructive process of seeking but never quite finding.” As people search for wilderness to relax in, they end up destroying it.  (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...allows the recreationist to take home a “certificate” proving that they spent time in the wilderness, and to demonstrate some skill in the process. It is easy to generalize and say... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...second enjoyable aspect of recreation is “the feeling of isolation in nature.” Leopold defines a wilderness area as being without roads except on the borders. Ironically, extending roads into the wilderness... (full context)
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold contrasts the idea of wilderness as a place to isolate oneself with the idea that recreation can provide “fresh-air and... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...never develop a land ethic or conscience are happy to “possess, invade, [and] appropriate” the wilderness. Because of this, these people do not value any land that is not easily accessible... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
Leopold concludes his book by stating that recreational development should not focus on making wilderness more accessible to people by building roads into it, but instead should try to build... (full context)