Aldo Leopold is most widely known as the author of A Sand County Almanac. Published in 1949, the book is a classic in Western literature. Leopold believed our idea of “community” should be enlarged to include non-human elements such as soils, waters, plants, animals, “or collectively: the land”. Leopold believed our economic wellbeing could not be separated from the wellbeing of our environment. His land ethic asserted: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
The purpose of the Leopold Writing Program is to build on Aldo Leopold’s legacy as a writer by inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders to participate in the evolution of land ethics through the written word. It consists of educational initiatives that support writers in three different stages of their development:
Aldo Leopold Writing Contest: For 6th – 12th grade students, the Writing Contest is an effective and inclusive way to engage the next generation of citizen leaders in an urgent conversation about how to address the changing realities brought about by climate disruption, biodiversity loss, growing freshwater demands, and other pressing global conservation issues. It is effective not only because of how many people it touches (the student participants, their peers, their teachers, their parents and grandparents, and their larger communities), but also because it gives voice to the writers with the most moral authority to discuss these issues: the generation most vulnerable to the suffering that will be caused by inaction. It is inclusive because the essays are judged anonymously based on the character of the content, without regard for the writer’s race, national origin, religion, or any other factor. The Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is an organic--because based on merit--way to diversify an essential conversation for all of society.
Aldo & Estella Leopold Residency: Whereas the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is for 6th -12th grade students, the Residency is for college students, graduate students, post-graduate students, and other early to mid-career professional writers from around the country and abroad. Just as the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest is a creative way to build a network of students who, based on their writing talent, have the potential to become the next generation’s environmental leaders, the Aldo & Estella Leopold Residency has the potential to make the network intergenerational by extending it from 6th-12th grade all the way up to the post-graduate and early to mid-career professional writing levels. The two programs dovetail, and the cultural impact of the two programs combined is made greater because they are all of a piece.
Leopold Lecture: For nationally and internationally distinguished writers, the Lecture seeks to raise the cultural awareness of Leopold’s lifelong philosophical search for how humans could “live on the land without spoiling it”. This search culminated in his formulation of “The Land Ethic”: "A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." To complete the intergenerational nature of the Leopold Writing Program, the distinguished writer that gives the Leopold Lecture will also present the awards to the 6th – 12th grade winners of the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest as part of the Leopold Lecture. Barry Lopez will give the First Annual Leopold Lecture at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on 23 April 2017.