Loras College and the land ethic

Junior honors group works to help promote Aldo Leopold’s land ethic by planting prairie and helping the wildlife return to campus

Loras is well-known for their environmental contributions. From the campus house with solar power, to the water-saving flush valves in the bathrooms, to the buildings heated by geothermal energy, Loras is an ecologically progressive institution. So naturally, another honors group has decided to move forward with another environmental initiative: the Land Ethic.

“The Land Ethic” is a phrase coined by Aldo Leopold, a well-known ecologist from Madison, WI. Leopold believed that humans were only one part of nature. Our purpose, as human beings, is not to dominate nature, but rather to act in ways which maintain the integrity of nature as a whole. To fulfill Leopold’s mission, a junior honors group comprised of students Taylor Brooks, Ervin Yahr, and Sarah Mueller have been working tirelessly to create another prairie space on campus, in addition to installing various bird nesting boxes throughout the green spaces on Loras’ campus.

“Our goal, as representatives of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic, is to create a more sustainable environment for Dubuque’s native birds of prey,” Brooks said.

Each member of the group feels that people have a personal responsibility to live in conjunction with the environment. It’s easy to partake in sustainable practices, like recycling, walking to class, and purchasing clothes from second-hand stores, but what they are doing with Aldo Leopold’s concept of the Land Ethic is a completely different kind of sustainable behavior. They hope this behavior benefits the environment in ways that are different than the impacts of practices like recycling or not using a car.

The group is currently in the process of gaining approval from campus maintenance to plant the prairie and install the nesting boxes. Their goal—pending approval—is to break ground on these installations on the very appropriate Earth Day, April 22, 2018.

“The potential opportunity to construct both the prairie and the boxes would not have been possible without the help of our many community partners,” Brooks said. “Groups like the Veterans Freedom Center, Seed Savers of Decorah, Swiss Valley, and Loras’ own biology department gave us crucial information that allowed us to formulate our plan and ultimately develop our overall goal.”

This past Saturday, on March 3, 2018, the group brought Dr. Curt Meine, senior fellow of the Aldo Leopold society and adjunct faculty at UW-Madison, to Loras to speak on sustainability. The talk was informative and addressed the junction between environmental, social, and economic sustainability. All three are indisputably interrelated, and any work on the advancement of sustainability at Loras — like the work of this Land Ethic honors group — is good work. The prairie grounds and nesting boxes will be  sustainable additions to Loras’ campus.

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