A Study of the Interaction of Social Science and Conservation in the United States, 1900 to 1950, through Aldo Leopold's Writings

Qi Feng Lin, Nanyang Technological University

One of the main ideas in social science in early twentieth-century United States was the belief that an analogy exists between human societies and animal and plant communities, which contributed to race science thinking. This led some social scientists and intellectuals to compare the two realms. The same period also saw the conservation of natural resources and wilderness areas. To understand the interaction between American social science and conservation during these crucial decades, I study the writings of Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), a central conservation figure and leading wildlife ecologist who dealt with both realms, separately and together. Besides paying attention to his mentions of this analogy and bibliographies of his published works, I will concentrate on Leopold’s use of history in his writing, including his plan before his sudden death to write a series of “case histories” to illustrate how ecology affected the course of American history, and the often neglected first three essays in the last part of his A Sand County Almanac (1949). Although many scholars and lay readers focused on the very last essay, “The Land Ethic,” this essay was shifted from its original first position in Part III to its current position in posthumous editing of the book. I end by referring to current American interest in the intersection of conservation and social justice.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 56. Expert and Local Knowledge in Land Use