Where are the voices of the wise whose vision spanned the trends and fades of a few years or a single lifetime? One such voice was that of Aldo Leopold.
Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was an American author, scientist, ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949), which has sold more than two million copies.
The voices of those who live only with a myopic view associated with economic trends and fades have risen to dominate the discussion of the effect of major disruptions being imposed on our environment. One such voice is that of Kyle Pattison.
In northeast Iowa, where the undulating farm fields spill into tall cliffs on the Mississippi River, the Pattison family is unearthing a new-age treasure: silica sand.
For decades, Kyle Pattison’s grain shipping business was tucked into the 300-foot bluffs. They stored grain in old mine tunnels drilled into cliffs and loaded it onto barges to ship down river. And they pretty much ignored the sand all around them.
How would these voices compare and contrast if they were to text message each other over the span of distance and time?
In the text transcript to follow are excerpts of quotes of the two men. The words of Aldo Leopold come from his book “A Sand County Almanac”. A Sand County Almanac
The words of Kyle Pattison come from an article in Harvest Public Media by Kathleen Masterson. Iowa grain company digs in.
Kyle Pattison: I had a grain company and one day I got a call and they asked us to supply sand, for frack. And that’s how we started with the idea of frack sand mining.
Aldo Leopold: Have you considered the long range effects on the land?
Kyle: Well, people around here have referred to me as quite a visionary. They say I am always looking ahead at what’s the next step, or two steps even beyond that.
Aldo: So you obey the law, vote right, join some organizations, and practice what conservation is profitable?
Kyle: Nothing wrong with giving people jobs and making money.
Aldo: Right. There has always been a clear tendency to relegate to government all the necessary jobs that private owners fail to perform.
Kyle: There is too much government in our lives as it is.
Aldo: The best a government can hope to enforce is an enlightened self interest, no important change in ethics was ever accomplished without an internal change in our loyalties and convictions. Government’s attempt to make conservation easy has made it trivial.
Kyle: This is big. Wisconsin alone has hundreds of mines, and even with new mines opening, some have sold out their sand well into the future.
Aldo: In 1920, 1930 was ten years in the future. Farming the prairies was big in the 1920’s. By 1930 it became clear to all except the ecologically blind, that southern Wisconsin’s topsoil was slipping seaward.
Kyle: It’s just sand. For magical reasons probably, this sand actually has a lot of the properties that gas miners covet. So they’re descending upon all these areas to provide this particular sand unit for their shale gas fracking operations.
Aldo: Most of the members of the land community have no economic value like marshes, bogs, dunes, and desserts. Throughout history the assumed lack of profit in these “waste areas” have proved to be wrong. We know that all parts are dependent on one another.
Kyle: There’s a demand for frack sand “Yeah, there is plenty of demand for the frack sand,”and as far as the employees, we’ve grown in the last six months from a little bit over 100 to a little over 150 employees.
Aldo: You are speaking of slice of time that spans a decade. Here is a view of land as an energy circuit conveying three basic ideas:
1) The land is not merely soil.
2) The native plants and animals kept the circuit open; others may or may not.
3) Man made changes are of different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen.
Leopold was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. His ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impact on the environmental movement, with his ecocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was a founder of the science of wildlife management.Leopold WIKI
Pattison’s attitude of self enrichment will be of little note nor long remembered.