While Henry David Thoreau, John Muir and Rachel Carson are widely credited for inspiring the modern environmental movement, another great environmental thinker, Aldo Leopold, is often overlooked. Hopefully that will start to change with the release this year of the feature-length documentary film “Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic For Our Time.” In the film, Leopold biographer Curt Meine travels to different parts of the U.S.
and interviews people from all walks of life inspired and motivated by Leopold’s thinking. The camera also follows Meine for a visit to the Leopold family cabin in Wisconsin’s Sauk County. Leopold used the cabin and surrounding acreage as a laboratory to better understand the interrelationships of natural systems and how to be a good steward for the land. Leopold’s time at the cabin with his family helped him forge the land ethic that he put to paper in his seminal 1949 book A Sand County Almanac… “All ethics so far evolved rest upon a single premise: that the individual is a member of a community of interdependent parts. His instincts prompt him to compete for his place in that community, but his ethics prompt him also to co-operate (perhaps in order that there may be a place to compete for). The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.” While we have come a long way as a society in terms of environmental awareness since Leopold’s day, the road ahead looks long and winding, and his lessons still apply, perhaps more than ever. “In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.” Seeing the documentary brings Leopold and his teachings to life in a way that simply reading A Sand County Almanac, great as it is, never could do on its own.
The film is scheduled to play at various theaters and events around the country this winter and spring–check out where and when at www.greenfiremovie.com. Or, even better, fans willing to contribute $150 to the non-profit Aldo Leopold Foundation, the backer of the film, can host a screening of the film in their own neck of the woods.