The idea of having a land ethic was coined by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac. Given the theme of books that I have found myself in lately I have realized that It is mostly just us, modern Americans, who seem to lack this ethic.
In short, a land ethic is our responsibility to the land on a deeper level. For instance, thinking about how our actions impact the land and how the land impacts us. A relationship may be a better term. Rather than simply recognizing how recreating outdoors makes us feel, familiarize one’s self with exactly what parts of nature make you feel that way. When you begin to break down the sound of water, the morning sun on a river, trout rising, mayflies hatching, shade trees, etc one can begin to recognize nature as more of a nuanced subject in which we belong.
The point of this bluntly put for fisherman is to think deeper about the total aspect of why we enjoy fly fishing. On a slow day of fishing, stop and smell the proverbial roses, enjoy what the creek, lake or river brings to us. Broadly speaking the more we realize how large the system of nature is that brings us a good day of fishing, the more we may care about this resource. I use fishing as an example, but any outdoor activity can apply here. Separate yourself from the activity and realize the layers involved within nature that brings us that activity.
Another aspect of a land ethic, separate from a personal moral responsibility to the land, is a social responsibility to the land. Not only does nature, the land, the river (I use these all interchangeably) provide us something on the individual level, it provides us on a more social level as well. This social collective must begin to recognize then not only their individual impacts but their impacts of a group. Fishing pressure on rivers is at an all time high. This increase in anglers on a specific area means more trash, more boot-print impacts, and more pressure on fish. An easy way to conceptualize yourself as part of a social group impacting a resource is this. My small amount of fishing line wrapped in a tree is a very small impact. The amount of fishing line from anglers as a community wrapped in a tree is an extremely large impact.
The point of this post is not a call to arms, it is a call to awareness. I urge people to think deeper about why they enjoy their outdoor recreational sport. While Aldo Leopold may have become rather grumpy in his years, I think A Sand County Almanac was simply asking people to think deeper about the land in which they impact. Not just as an individual, but as a group, to become more aware of the layers of nature in which we enjoy, and how complex these layers really are.
Please stop littering.