Students, as part of your preparation, we encourage you to read “The Land Ethic” and other essays by Aldo Leopold. These can be found in A Sand County Almanac, available at local libraries, bookstores, and on the internet.
2024 Essay Topic
Please consider the following, and then respond to the ESSAY PROMPT below.
Aldo Leopold is most widely known as the author of A Sand County Almanac (1949) in which he articulates his 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.”
Today, we can look to Leopold’s writing to help guide us in addressing changing realities brought about by climate change, biodiversity loss, growing demand for fresh water, and other global environmental issues.
In his essay “Engineering and Conservation” (1938), Leopold writes: “Our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history, to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”
Are our tools better than we are? Think about tools in your life. Do they help or hurt your relationship with our ecological community?
PLEASE NOTE: The length of the essays varies by category, noted below. Please be sure that your essay adheres to these minimum/maximum requirements. We request that you include WORD COUNT on the last page of your essay after your final line. Thank you!
CATEGORIES Grades 6-7300-500 words Grades 8-9400-600 words Grades 10-12500-700 words
Here is a step-by-step guide to submitting your essay.
Save the essay as a PDF file and ATTACH to the submission email. Please DO NOT send links to Google Drive!
1. Essays may be typed or handwritten. Please determine the word count of your essay and note this number on the last page of your submission: WORD COUNT ___. Once you have written your Essay, be sure NOT to put your name on the document, so that judging can be anonymous. Save your essay as a PDF file, using the format [Student Name] ESSAY.
2. Fill out the Entry Form with your information, using this online link.
Click on the button above tobring up the form in your browser. Each line provides a space to type in the information requested.
Fill in all of the form fields COMPLETELY, using correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.
When you have finished with the top portion of the form (the APPLICANT INFORMATION section), right-click on the form, and choose SAVE AS. Select desired folder on your computer, and name your file [Student Name] FORM.
If you choose to print out the form and complete it by hand, be sure to PRINT CLEARLY and LEGIBLY. Scan the completed form and save it as a PDF with the name [Student Name] FORM.
The next step is to obtain the Sponsoring TEACHER's information, signature, and date. Make sure you allow enough time for your teacher to complete this section, in order to submit your essay and entry form by the deadline. Be sure to save the file again after the teacher information is entered.
3. We are requesting that you fill out an additional form (Student Demographic Information). This form asks questions about you that are important to the Leopold Writing Program for collecting data to test that our Contest recruitment efforts are achieving diversity within New Mexico's Grades 6-12 population. Responses to these questions are voluntary. Your responses will be unconnected from your application, and will not be visible to the panel of judges evaluating your essay. The aggregate information collected through this form will be kept private. There will be no impact on your application if you choose not to answer any of these questions. Thank you for helping us to collect important data!
4. When you are ready to send your essay, prepare an email with the subject line WRITING CONTEST ENTRY addressed to LeopoldWritingContest@usgo.net.Submissions must include two separate PDF files as attachments to your email: (1) the essay WITHOUT author's name on the document, and (2) the completed entry form. (3) Additionally, if you have chosen to complete the Student Demographic Information Form, please save it as a PDF with the file name INFO and attach this also to your email. Thank you!
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? After essays are judged, the award-winning students and their teachers will be notified, and results will be announced on the Writing Contest page.