Aldo Leopold’s “The Sand County Almanac,” from January to July

I have been meaning to read “The Sand County Almanac” for two years now, and I am thrilled to have the chance. While we decided as a group to stick to part one for the purposes of this course, and have only read up to July for this week, he certainly seems to be the one who laid the foundation for the new economy we talk about today.

Within a few sentences of beginning “The Sand County Almanac,” one cannot help but get an overwhelming sense of community. Leopold shows us how much the world around is dependent on the minute workings of one creature to another. We stand in the middle of that community, aloof of our attachment, in fact, utter need for it. In the January chapter we curiously follow creatures as Leopold does, taking notice of things that continuously happen regardless of if we are paying attention or not.

            For me, the month of February was by far the most impactful, and as such will be what I spend the majority of this reflection on. It is here he begins to touch on the “spiritual dangers” of disconnectedness – to me it seems to perfectly inspire the words that Charles Eisenstein wrote in his book, “Sacred Economics,” over fifty years later. While in this context he is talking specifically about the spiritual dangers of not living on a farm, he essentially goes through the basics of Eisenstein’s concept of the economics of separation. When people don’t know where their food, heat, resources, and the like are coming from, we end up at the disconnected and over-consuming place we are today. Leopold describes his dog, oblivious as to where the heat really comes from or how it works, but who faithfully waits upon it expectantly. In light of this description, I fear that I am far more often the dog in this little illustration than any other character. I, along with countless other people, complain when something doesn’t work as I might hope without really ever appreciating the source.

Still in the month of February, Leopold walks readers through the sawing of a tree that he will eventually use for heat. He writes about the history of the tree, all the way back into roughly 1875, when (as its rings indicate) it first took root. It is at this point it became abundantly clear to me just how ridiculous we as human beings are in terms of the “aloofness” I mentioned before. Each ring they cut through attributes to a year that the tree lived through, and as Leopold highlights changes in environmental policies, conservation efforts, and essentially anything else that some esteemed human declared that year or defined the year by, the tree continues to grow. We can make whatever regulations we want, order nature around as much as we want, but things keep growing, the cycle continues, and in the end, we rely upon it doing exactly that to have the heat and food and resources we are so dependent on and ignorant of.

There is one quote in March that I couldn’t help but pause over. Leopold, as he considers the wonder of geese as they migrate and live in community, mentions a neighbor who says she had never seen the geese. He then poses the question, “ [i]s education possibly a process of trading awareness for lesser things of value” (Leopold 18)? Often times it seems to me that the way our society is constructed today, particularly in my own university life, leaves little to no time for people to pause and be aware of what is actually going on around them. Many a time I have wished to be outside but had something I had to get done, driven to get good grades so I can get good scholarships so I can come back and get good grades so I can get a good job so I can pay off my debt and have a family with kids who get good grades so they can get good scholarships so they can….well, you see my point. We are so wrapped up in our perfect little system or idea of success and our economically and scholarly driven community, but to what avail? What awareness and community have we given up so we can have these things? What have we done to our own spirituality – and for what?