Walking with Aldo Leopold in the Place that Made Him

Kurt here. For the past few days I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of staying at the home where Aldo Leopold was born, raised and lived until he was 17. This sounds sort of unremarkable until you consider two things:

first, that Leopold grew up to be a field environmental philosopher of unparalleled, and continuing, global significance—the modern formulator of the “biotic citizen” (and of our school!), and

second, childhood years are key in terms of human development, and being here gives us—educators, parents, fans of Greta Thunberg—key insights into how and why Leopold was driven to forge the career he did.

I’m here in Burlington, Iowa to collaborate with the Leopold Landscape Alliance to create Field Environmental Philosophy curricula that will experientially introduce high students from around world to how one can be(come) a biocitizen. AND perhaps more importantly, to provide these students with an energizing, life-transforming initiation they will carry forward like hot coals in a dutch oven into their futures, no matter what career-path they end up taking. (The world will be “saved” not by “environmentalists” but by everyday people who love where they live, and because they love it, take care of it—the same way they take care of loved ones.)

By tracing Leopold’s development—by absorbing the real places that “imprinted” upon him the emotions, thoughts, biocultural history lessons that inspired him—within the context of a 2 week-long sustained group meditation on his environmental philosophy, our students will access within themselves the similar, allied, experiences they have had. We will provide them with the materials they can use to construct themselves as environmental leaders—that they can bring home and share with their communities and help the people, places and creatures they love live happy, healthy lives.

about -10 this morning, steaming Mississippi River as seen from Leopold birthpalce


For, as Leopold, wrote: We can be ethical only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.

Here are pics of a few places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with Steve Brower and his Leopold Landscape Alliance friends.

Earthen structure made by the Mound Builders
View from porch of Leopold birthplace—boats traveling up and down the Mississippi connected him to places he could only dream of, that he would someday set out to explore, know and love
Steve Brower, director of the Leopold Landscape Alliance, brought me to this bluff overlooking the floodplains. Atop the bluff are the earth structures of the Mound Builders.
Leopold was an avid hunter, and Dave Riley brought us to the Crystal Lake Club that Leopold was a member of. In his essay Thinking Like a Mountain, Leopold describes his awakening to the ethical implications of hunting.
Jesse and I will be back towards the end of March to deliver lectures about how Biocitizen is a Leopoldian School of Field Environmental Philosophy. We’re stoked!
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