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Environmental Ethics

Volume 38, Issue 3, Fall 2016

Kalpita Bhar Paul, Meera Baindur
Pages 307-325

Leopold’s Land Ethic in the Sundarbans
A Phenomenological Approach

Leopold’s land ethic is a watershed event in environmental ethics as it is the first one to provide an alternative conceptualization of land to transcend its “Abrahamic conception.” However, if Leopold had employed phenomenological methods to formulate his land ethic, then his conceptualization of land and the understanding of its relation with its dwellers could have been more nuanced. From an analysis of the Sundarbans islanders’ phenomenological accounts of land, collected during a field study, it can be shown that phenomenological understanding of land negates the Abrahamic notions of the Sundarbans’s land, which are deeply rooted in developmental as well as ecological conservation programs that the region is presently witnessing. As an alternative, such a phenomenological approach can enhance Leopold’s land ethic by providing an opportunity to see land in its true form, instead of conceptual­izing land “in order to” maintain the integrity of a land pyramid. In this manner, it helps to broaden the horizon of the land ethic and transforms the conceptualization of land itself.

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