Ecology and Society

  • Steven Stoll
Part of the The Bedford Series in History and Culture book series (BSHC)


Ecology made it possible to envision humans as members of biotic communities, a term invented by Aldo Leopold that emphasizes the obligations humans have to plants and animals. Whenever wildlife managers, like Leopold himself, eliminated predators in a region, the results were not what they predicted. In this essay, Leopold refers to an explosive increase in the deer population of the Kaibab Plateau, near the Grand Canyon, in which deer were said to triple, even quadruple, after the removal of wolves during the 1920s. It may not have happened as Leopold thought (no one conducted a comprehensive survey, and ecologists doubt that the deer reached 100,000), but news of the event impressed him deeply. “Thinking like a Mountain” describes the central epiphany of his career and a defining moment in environmental thought. Leopold’s empathic response to the mountain suggested that human influence over the earth had moral, if not technological, limits. A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.


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Copyright information

© Bedford/St. Martin’s 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Stoll

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