“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.”
One of my favorite ecological leaders is Aldo Leopold. In his classic book A Sand County Almanac, Leopold wrote the essay “The Land Ethic”, .
The quote above, which comes from the section titled The Outlook, is a powerful guide for how we can operate in an ecological leadership mode. Failure to follow that ethic is likely the main reason humanity continues to plunder the planet with wars, pollution, and consumption. Somewhere along the way, we have forgotten that we are indeed simply a part of the “biotic community” and not somehow separated from or perched on top of it. Leopold also wrote, "We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect."
It is the separation from the land and the rest of planet that also allows us to separate ourselves from other groups of people and develop hierarchical organizations that are designed to primarily benefit those sitting on the top, and use the people below in the same manner as we have treated the land, namely as a commodity. It seems that sooner or later when you do not take care of the community that supports you, the support will eventually collapse, and down will come the leader. At least that is what happens in the biotic community.
Following Leopold’s land ethic can make what often seem like complex decisions on how to live our lives, relatively simple.