Anyone who has read Fahrenheit 451, or who has seen the movie, has had the idea about each of us becoming a “book”, resorting back to the oral tradition cross their mind. Although nearly everyone has at least one book in them, we no longer sit around a communal hearth, sharing into the night parts and pieces of our collective knowledge. The long oral tradition and the sort of brain development that humans have evolved for over millennea to use, coding and decoding through language, the deep truths that guided tribal society for most of human history has been lopped off, like a foreskin, severed unceremoniously by mass media. Before I light out for parts unknown, let me get back to my title. Aldo Leopold has been credited with elucidating The Land Ethic. In his day, there was quite a bit of talking going on around this idea. The language of the oppressors had not yet allowed such entanglements to slow progress or undermine profitability. Before Aldo made the existence of a land ethic tenable in the western mind through coining of the phrase for it, there could only be veiled and tangential discussion of the idea. Remarkably, there were native populations who lived immersed in a land ethic at the time, but the folks writing history were discovering it as “new”. for their part, using a term like land ethic would still have remained deeply enigmatic to them, because the land is just one subset of the realms that they recognized. My own language attempts to describe something that I hope, takes Aldo’s idea one step further. Somewhere, buried in the text of my own book, I attempt to add to the idea. I try to bring light into darkness, perhaps my candle in the wind will only partially illuminate the sensibility that my curiosity keeps driving me toward, but in the face of ignorance, I do my best to describe it. Land is not the only the ethic that we need.
What I am trying to describe is an ECO-Ethic Those who have read and understood the nature and substance of having a land ethic are perhaps on the way to understanding the word I have picked for this spirit of creation, the infinite responsibility and total freedom which has been granted us, but in the language of others there is little said about what I believe to be our birthright. Oral tradition and the hearth have been supplanted with other stand-ins, but in my mind, the conversation, that was reserved for around the fires of history will return, or be preserved, much like in was in F451, the first science fiction that I ever “liked”. I’m sure that Ray Bradbury felt an intimate connection with books and writing, that is why above all else books would be preserved by those who did not want them to vanish forever from the face of the Earth.
So to, those who feel the intimate connection to ecology will know in their own way what I mean by the term ECO-Ethics. The land and all forces acting upon it are equal. Just as you can say that a map is a representation of a specific part of the Earth, or a particular neighborhood, Our perception of land is but a representation of what really exists. I could say, in the map analogy, that the air in the room above the map represents the air and that the table and what lie below the map represent the Earth. This adds another dimension to the map, but still it cannot come close to being the thing we are attempting to describe. We can add a dozen layers to our imaginary base map, but no matter how densely we pack data, the whole will remain illusive. air photos could add a bit of texture and lines of equal elevation could delineate taller features and depressions to some extent, but regardless of how accurate you tried to make the map, it would fall short.
This is why I feel that there is a need to take The Land Ethic of Leopold to a new and possibly more descriptive level. Ecology is a scientific way of including all processes of all creatures, the land, water resources and climate to give a full and honest accounting of nature. Long ago scientists understood that so many interdependent things were going on around us that they could not separate a single thing out of the whole without making repercussions reverberate through all that would be left. Whole institutions have developed out of the understanding that this concept brought about. The influence that defining this term had on the last several generations is what has given me hope for the future.
It has been said by greater intellects than mine, that sustainability will not be realized until the term “Green”, meaning environmentally non-destructive, disappears from our lexicon. When we transition into the realm of sustainability, greenwashing (claiming to be environmentally benign, but still doing business as usual to pollute the planet) will disappear as well. There will be just one way and we will not need to define it. So too, having to discuss ECO-Ethics guarantees that we have not yet achieved them. The spirits and energies of each elemental part as well as each inhabitant of an area must be included in our ethics. Perhaps thinking of ECO as an acronym would help. The difficulty here is to pin it down to just one meaning for the three letters. ECO could be Etheric Coherent Organization, playing on the spiritual connectivity of all things, all beings and the body electric of the entire planet. I have spoken of fractile geometry before and this is a good place for an illustration. On an etheric level, we all harmonize with the hum of creation OM. The spirits that enliven rock and tree, water and soil microbes need to be not only considered but understood and intimately related to. On another level of understanding, Elivened Carbon with the O representing infinite cycling of said carbon. On this level, the energy of creator is the placeholder commonly known as “What goes around comes around.” certainly we need to destroy to create, but in the context of ECO-Ethics, we also take this responsibility with a much deeper understanding and more humility than many seem to be capable of. Finally, Every Creature Ordination. This may be one of the hardest to understandings to get across in our current culture. without sanctification of the whole of nature, the entire ecosystem, we become estranged from the whole in irreconcilable ways. ECO-Ehtics are not about a thing or certain imaginary entity, they are about the whole, every bit of what we are surrounded with. Sadly, in this time, we must consider the spirit of toxic compounds that have been spewed onto our land, the quality and disposition of the water and the air. what can be supported and nurtured, as well as the foundational blocks upon which each organism either thrives or dies.
In the future we will need to look to this greater level of understanding rather than just seek to involve “the land” in our decisions. Billions of creatures per square foot lent their energies to stabilizing and ameliorating the climate, moderate the water cycle, break down stone that could later be used to make food, etc. All of these services were provided to us by a myriad of organisms as long as we remained integrated with our surroundings. These partners in evolution are what made our lives possible and healthy. For our lives to remain possible…the one requirement is that we return the favor.