As the environmental movement becomes less of a fringe subculture and more of a cornerstone of modern life, a generational shift in human consciousness is inevitable. However, what human consciousness should be shifting towards is up for debate. The Land Ethic, proposed by Aldo Leopold, is a framework of values that places humanity and the Earth’s nature in a relationship of cooperation and partnership.
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Leopold argues that to create a truly just ethical system that would encourage cooperation rather than exploitation, people need to feel an emotional attachment to the land. The economic terms which frame any discussion of nature and environmentalism do not capture the essence of what nature truly is. As Leopold noted at the very beginning of his paper, humans used to regard other humans as property to be exploited for value rather than equal individuals. Perhaps, nature can be regarded in the same vein, making the human civilization a more just and more considerate actor than it presently is.
Whether the Land Ethic is the best environmental theory or not depends on how committed one is to environmentalism. For the person who would like to see humanity radically change its thinking and live in harmony with nature, the Land Ethic should be extremely attractive.
However, I cannot in good conscience recommend its adoption as is, because, the way I see it, that ethic is dependent on all humans on all levels of society adopting it at the same time. I believe the notion that all humans will embrace the Land Ethic is naïve. Without the majority supporting it, it would likely fail to stand up to the economic powerhouses opposing it. There needs to be another solution that is appealing to all people, not just the ones who are already committed to environmentalism.