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Thinking Like A Mountain Essay

1102 words - 5 pages

The average human life is approximately eight decades long. For the entirety of our personage we are swallowed by our environment- we feel the rain fall upon our faces, we hear the crunch of icy snow beneath our feet, we brush wind tossed hair from our faces. Yet, in our 80 years on earth, we are unable to fathom a world in which our fundamental surroundings drastically transmogrify. We picture the present environment as a stagnant aspect of forever, something largely unchanging and ever-present. However, a mountain knows we are incorrect in this very humanistic assumption. From ancient peaks, the mountain sees continuous fluctuations of nature and it understands the repercussions of any alteration to its natural biotic systems. This vital knowledge is what allows the mountain to effortlessly prosper in its environment. In order for humans to similarly flourish Aldo Leopold asserts in his essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain”, that we must examine our relationship with nature and alter it to match that which the mountain has long maintained.
As a graduate from Yale University with a degree in forestry, Leopold himself should understand the significance of cultivating such a relationship. However like much of society, a young Leopold was ignorant of this importance. He was unable to conclude that humans must change their role within the environment until, while on a hunting trip, he shot a Mexican wolf. As the creature lay dying in front of him, Leopold witnessed a “fierce green fire” leave her eyes. This extinguished flame caused Leopold to alter the way in which he viewed nature. Leopold saw that because humans have over-hunted apex predators such as the wolf, populations of herbivores drastically increased on the mountain. The greater amount of herbivores present rapidly threw off the homeostatic balance of the mountainside and resulted in once densely vegetated areas sinking into barren wildernesses. To Leopold, the darkened green fire represented more than just the end of wolf’s life, but a symbol of the death of rich ecosystems due to man’s mistreatment.
After his encounter Leopold hypothesized why humans unknowingly abuse the land they inhabit. He proclaims that, “We all strive for safety…but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run,” (133). In our search for life-long security, people have a tendency to go to extremes and take more than they need to thrive. As humans, we naturally over-prepare for unseen circumstances in order to maintain self-preservation. However, when resources are limited, as in the case of land and the environment, this method of preparation causes more harm than benefit. Hunters who shoot predators in order to increase game population and farmers whom extend their reach by clearing territory of natural flora, take more land and resources than necessary without comprehending the significant future impacts their actions will have on the environment. Our innate desire for immediate...

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