by Aldo Leopold
published by Ballantine Books
© 1949 by Oxford University Press
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Published in 1949, shortly after the author's death, A Sand County Almanac
is a classic of nature writing, widely cited as one of the most influential
nature books ever published. Writing from the vantage of his summer
shack along the banks of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixes essay, polemic,
and memoir in his book's pages. In one famous episode, he writes of
killing a female wolf early in his career as a forest ranger, coming
upon his victim just as she was dying, "in time to watch a fierce
green fire dying in her eyes.... I was young then, and full of trigger-itch;
I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, no wolves would
mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed
that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view."
Leopold's road-to-Damascus change of view would find its fruit some
years later in his so-called land ethic, in which he held that nothing
that disturbs the balance of nature is right. Much of Almanac elaborates
on this basic premise, as well as on Leopold's view that it is something
of a human duty to preserve as much wild land as possible, as a kind
of bank for the biological future of all species. Beautifully written,
quiet, and elegant, Leopold's book deserves continued study and discussion
today. --Gregory McNamee
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