Student Summer Scholars


Great Lakes, ecosystem, conservation


Biology | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility




Abstract: This essay explores what obligations we have to protect the Great lakes ecosystem from the threat of aquatic invasive species within the context of Aldo Leopold‟s seminal essay in environmental philosophy The Land Ethic. In this essay I argue that Leopold‟s land ethic provides a consistent and dynamic paradigm for how we perceive and protect the natural environment. The land ethic is summarized in what I call Leopold’s Edict which directs us to preserve the health and beauty of the natural environment. The land ethic implies that people interested in conservation must develop a firm understanding of what is necessary by experience with nature. The experience of venturing out into the natural world allows us to enter into a relationship with the land and thereby develop sound judgment in our ecological decision-making. This judgment, the judgment that a craftsman may have is more finely tuned due to the experience. The best way to come to this level of judgment is both through an understanding of the scientific and natural history but it is also vital that an understanding of the natural aesthetics be present as we make conservation decisions. Not all invasive species will pose substantial threats and possible response will vary because ecosystems are dynamic not static. New solutions will need to be discovered, but it seems as though Leopold‟s land ethic can provide a versatile framework within which to determine the best solutions. Versatility does not mean that it is adaptable to whatever moral winds seem to be blowing at the time, but rather that it will help us to discover the mean between two extremes and therefore give us a virtuous response to each new threat.