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Green Fire: The Landscapes of Aldo Leopold

One of the great champions of a holistic view of the world is Aldo Leopold. His slim volume A Sand County Almanac (1949) consistently ranks as one of the most influential “must reads” for the conservation and environmental movement.  The book is a crossover favorite as it integrates both humanistic and natural values arguing for an approach that he called land health.  Ben Minteer in his book The Landscape of Reform (MIT Press, 2006) believes that if Leopold were writing today this would be a very modern message ” …he would frame much of his discussion of land health in the language of ‘ecosystem services,’ those natural services such as purification water, cycling of nutrients, assimilation of wastes and regulation of climate that human communities derive from healthy ecological systems”.

Credit: Aldo Leopold Foundation
Aldo Leopold Shack in Baraboo, WI. Credit: Aldo Leopold Foundation

Books are great, but it was the sense of place that inspired Aldo Leopold’s values and his writing from the mountains of New Mexico to his family’s shack in Baraboo, Wisconsin. For those who want to have a better understanding of this connection, I recommend that they seek out the recent Emmy award-winning movie Green Fire. It tells the story of Leopold’s life by walking in his footsteps and following the evolution of his thinking about the balance of man and nature across the landscape.

The movie is a project the Wisconsin based Aldo Leopold Foundation whose mission is to inspire an ethical relationship between people and land through the legacy of Aldo Leopold. It has been shown in special screenings, in conferences, and now on PBS stations across the nation. For show times visit the web site at www.greenfiremovie.com. For how you can become involved in foundation’s Land Ethic Leadership program go here.

Movies are a great medium for telling conservation and landscape scale stories where images help carry the message. So I am surprised that there are so few examples. Two documentaries with strong historical footage are the Greatest Good (A history of the US Forest Service 2006) and The Life of Maurice K. Goddard (WITF 2010), which can be watched on streaming video.   Also see an earlier LLO post on Maurice Goddard here.