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Environmental Ethics

Volume 40, Issue 3, Fall 2018

Lisa Gerber
Pages 269-282

Aldo Leopold's “Great Possessions”

In environmental ethics, the conception of possession is generally criticized, since land, plants, and animals should not be objectified, controlled, or owned. Yet, Aldo Leopold planned to title A Sand County Almanac “Great Possessions.” His title emphasized a point that Leopold thought important. In contrast to a sense of possession as domination, Leopold articulates a deeper, moral sense of possession in which the person claims and is claimed by others. For example, not only does Leopold claim his pines, his wife, and his chickadees, but he is also claimed by them. In this sense, possession is an act of love, care, and willingness to work on the behalf of others with passion and commitment. This sense of possession is worthy of our understanding and our emulation.

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