Worksheet: The Land Ethic

Read Leopold’s “The Land Ethic” in Sand County Almanac. ( You will notice that it is organized in sections with subtitles. Read the essay one section at a time. As you conclude each section, review it and note the important concepts. This is a concept driven argument. Underline important quotes or sentences that you like. Think about how this essay, written a long time ago, long before the reality of climate change was understood, is relevant to current problems and examples.

Remember, ethics provide context for our individual actions relative to larger social values. Leopold understood that ultimately the health of land, and in turn human health, would be determined by people’s values. A Sand County Almanac ends with Leopold’s challenge to individuals and communities to join in the “intellectual and emotional” evolution of a land ethic.

As you read, draft answers to the questions below (copy/past into a Word doc). Then, once you have finished, carefully revise and edit your responses before submitting:


1. Explain the extended analogy to slavery.

2. What is the deeper significance or importance of these key concepts–Property and Expediency?

3. Paraphrase the suggestive claim: “During the last three thousand years which have since elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct, with corresponding shrinkages in those judged by expediency only” (202). Is there a thesis here?

The Ethical Sequence

4. In what sense are ethics “a process in ecological evolution”?

5. How are ecological and philosophical ethics analogous? What is the common “tendency”?

6. Elaborate on the idea of the key concept: co-operation. Why is cooperation important to Leopold?

7. Paraphrase: “An ethic may be regarded as a mode of guidance for meeting ecological situations so new or intricate, or involving such deferred reactions, that the path of social expediency is not discernable to the average individual. Animal instincts are modes of guidance for the individual in meeting such situations. Ethics are possibly a kind of community instinct in-the-making” (203).

The Community Concept

8. How exactly does Leopold redefine the concept of “community” for his argument?

9. How does Leopold anticipate an objection to his position? How does he refute it?

10. Paraphrase: “In short, the land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiensfrom conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it” (204).

11. Characterize the wrong kind of thinking—that of the conqueror, or Abraham–in this argument.

12. There are two examples from American history (205-6). Each is aimed at demonstrating a different outcome related to the idea that humans are part of a “biotic team.” The first is the story of Kentucky bluegrass; the second is about the loss of grasslands in the Southwest. Explain these examples and how they support his argument.

The Ecological Conscience

13. Paraphrase: “Obligations have no meaning without conscience, and the problem we face is the extension of the social conscience from people to land. No important change in ethics was ever accomplished without an internal change in our intellectual emphasis, loyalties, affections, and convictions.” (209-10).

Substitutes for a Land Ethic

14. What are some examples of substitutes—or what is NOT a land ethic?

15. What are some of the consequences of not having a real land ethic?

16. What is the conclusion to be drawn from this section?

The Land Pyramid

In your notebook, draw the several “mental” images “of land as a biotic mechanism.

17. How does the land pyramid— “a tangle of chains so complex as to seem disorderly” (215)—help Leopold demonstrate his key concepts of co-operation and community?

18. How have we altered the “energy circuit” or pyramid? What are the “penalties” (218)?

Land Health and the A-B Cleavage

19. This section discusses the split between different points of view on land and conservation: the ecological versus the agronomical (or agricultural). In your own words, explain the differences in perspective.

The Outlook

20. Leopold writes, “One of the requisites for an ecological comprehension of land is an understanding of ecology, and this is by no means co-extensive with education; in fact, most higher education seems deliberately to avoid ecological concepts” (224). Is this true? Explain.

21. He also leaves us with this memorable statement: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise” (225). How could such a seemingly simple set of measurements work?

22. One of the last words of the argument is “objective” (226). This reminds us of the claim in “Thinking Like a Mountain.” How are these two arguments—in a simple way—connected?

Calculate the price
Make an order in advance and get the best price
Pages (550 words)
*Price with a welcome 15% discount applied.
Pro tip: If you want to save more money and pay the lowest price, you need to set a more extended deadline.
We know how difficult it is to be a student these days. That's why our prices are one of the most affordable on the market, and there are no hidden fees.

Instead, we offer bonuses, discounts, and free services to make your experience outstanding.
How it works
Receive a 100% original paper that will pass Turnitin from a top essay writing service
step 1
Upload your instructions
Fill out the order form and provide paper details. You can even attach screenshots or add additional instructions later. If something is not clear or missing, the writer will contact you for clarification.
Pro service tips
How to get the most out of your experience with Lets Write For You
One writer throughout the entire course
If you like the writer, you can hire them again. Just copy & paste their ID on the order form ("Preferred Writer's ID" field). This way, your vocabulary will be uniform, and the writer will be aware of your needs.
The same paper from different writers
You can order essay or any other work from two different writers to choose the best one or give another version to a friend. This can be done through the add-on "Same paper from another writer."
Copy of sources used by the writer
Our college essay writers work with ScienceDirect and other databases. They can send you articles or materials used in PDF or through screenshots. Just tick the "Copy of sources" field on the order form.
See why 20k+ students have chosen us as their sole writing assistance provider
Check out the latest reviews and opinions submitted by real customers worldwide and make an informed decision.
Customer reviews in total
Current satisfaction rate
3 pages
Average paper length
Customers referred by a friend
15% OFF your first order
Use a coupon FIRST15 and enjoy expert help with any task at the most affordable price.
Claim my 15% OFF Order in Chat