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A Good That TranscendsHow US Culture Undermines Environmental Reform$
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Eric T. Freyfogle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226326085

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226326252.001.0001

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Leopold’s Last Talk

Leopold’s Last Talk

(p.8) One Leopold’s Last Talk
A Good That Transcends

Eric T. Freyfogle

University of Chicago Press

Late in his life Aldo Leopold delivered over 100 conservation talks to varied audiences, only a few of which were published. A study of the extensive records of those talks, supplemented by his late writings, gives a clear sense of the main messages Leopold thought audiences most needed to hear if true conservation was to take root. Leopold urged people to see nature more holistically, as an integrated land community that included humans. This land community could be more or less healthy, he stated, and the health of it should provide the guiding beacon for all conservation efforts. Leopold also pushed audiences to realize that conservation success required significant if not radical changes in modern culture. After distilling and probing Leopold’s key messages, this chapter situates Leopold’s stances in modern philosophy. Leopold challenged presumptions about human exceptionalism and liberal autonomy; he questioned the reach of human knowledge; he presented nature in holistic terms; he embraced a theory of truth similar to that of American pragmatism; and he centered his normative vision on community welfare, on a good that transcended individual preferences. To succeed, Leopold concluded, conservation efforts needed above all to promote new ways of seeing, thinking, and valuing.

Keywords:   Aldo Leopold, cultural change, holism, human exceptionalism, land community, land health, liberal autonomy, pragmatism

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