David Haskell’s The Forest Unseen has been my favorite book we’ve read for HRCS all semester, but something was nagging at the back of my mind: I got the distinct impression that I’d read something very similar before and couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There was something about the meandering reflections and attention to detail that called up something I’d stumbled across years ago, and it took me until this week to place the connection — in many ways, The Forest Unseen is a modern-day companion to Aldo Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac.
I’ve read Leopold’s collected essays more times than I can remember — as an HSE major interested in conservation, any environmental literature class I take would be remiss if it didn’t include at least an excerpt from his groundbreaking work. Like David Haskell, Aldo Leopold was a keen student of his surrounding landscape, and generated a great deal of philosophical thought from his own wanderings in the woods in the early 20th century. Leopold developed the idea of a “land ethic” — a responsible relationship between humans and the land they inhabited — and illustrated the concept with beautiful, near-poetic prose. Haskell’s call to pay careful attention to what the natural world can teach us and maintain a connection with it is its own sort of land ethic, and the two books seem like spiritual kin. Each author’s voice is uniquely their own, of course, but their eye for detail, fascination with the smallest and most delicate organisms they encounter in their daily wanderings, and sense of connection to the ecosystem around them are very much aligned.
So if you like The Forest Unseen, A Sand County Almanac will be right up your alley. I’ve linked to a piece called Thinking Like A Mountain, which I’ve read for half a dozen different classes and like enough to recommend to you all the same. It deals with the ethics of wildlife management, and if you’ve ever heard a passing reference to “the green fire” — this is where the phrase originated. Content warning for animal harm, but I promise it’s worth the read. http://www.eco-action.org/dt/thinking.html