Visual display of the Aldo Leopold papers : 9/25/10-1 : Correspondence



found and dramatic definition of scholarship,
rendered in the mental imagery of the lum-
I once upbraided "P. S." for not publish-
ing more papers. I told him he was like a
squirrel who buried his mental garnerings in
letters, instead of planting them in print
where they could grow in many minds. He
replied: "I've been watching those squirrels.
They don't even try to remember where they
put acorns. They just cache them all over the
neighborhood, and then go and smell 'em up
again, as wanted. The squirrel that plants an
acorn is not always the one to smell it up.
Meanwhile quite a lot of them have sprouted
and grown into trees. Caching things in print
is not always the best way to get things
growing" (letter 9/14/40). In this homely
parable is compressed his own picture of his
service to society.
Lovejoy's early writings dealt with physi-
cal resource problems, and with land policy.
The deflation of the lake states land boom,
the recognition of forestry by the agricultural
profession, and the realization that forest
lands as well as farm lands may be submar-
ginal are in no small degree Lovejoy's per-
sonal handiwork. He also contributed largely
to the recognition of wildlife as a land crop,
and to the initiation of wildlife research.
In his later years, his thinking focused not
on policy, but on people. He saw that the
average citizen had given nothing but lip-
service to either forestry or wildlife manage-
ment, and he wanted to know why. Unlike
most publicly employed conservationists, he
did not mistake the growth of appropriations
and the proliferation of bureaus for the ac-
complishment of the ends for which they
were created. He became engrossed in ana-
lyzing the reasons for the failure of "con-
servation education."
His findings are expressed in "Ecological
Engineering." I consider this one of the most
important papers on conservation published
during the current decade, but like other
Lovejoy "acorns," it was cached at random
in an obscure spot.
Conservation, Lovejoy says, is reason ap-
plied to environment. Reason, to the mass
indin, is like oxvgen to the animal body: a

little is essential, but too much is toxic, and
induces pain followed by defensive reactions.
Tolerance for reason may be increased by
education, but only by slow degrees. Agricul-
tural extension has developed techniques
which recognize the limits of public toler-
ance; it administers small doses of "science"
heavily diluted with economic and social
persuasion. Conservation must do the same.
Lovejoy's distinction between educator
and extensionist is elaborated in a recent
letter (3/8/39):
"Educators smear all behaviors which are
not dominantly rational. The standard cam-
pus illusion is that Homo can and should be
educated so that he will not much, if any, (or
anyway not in public) behave like a mammal.
All the while everybody knows he will.
Skillful advertisers, politicians, and evan-
gelists know in advance that most of the time
people will react to stimuli and inhibitions
which have little or nothing to do with the
campus formula.
The extensioner splits the difference. He
does not expect his customers to be much or
often rational. He uses fact-logic only when
it seems to work. When it doesn't work, he
contrives bait and drift-fences and banana-
peel arrangements which do. His job is to
bridge the gap between the latest Experiment
Station dope and the specific action-pro-
gram. When the educator has done his stuff,
the customer is due to be intelligent, but the
extensioner is content if he thereafter acts as
if he were."
I add from "Ecological Engineering":
"It is an almost universal assumption that
there is something pathological in politicians.
This, assuredly, is a misconception. The
politician has always been associated with
civilization, and has a function correspond-
ing to that of leucocytes in the blood. The
splitting of differences of interest among the
governed is a perennial job. Our ecological
engineer may be glad to have someone tend-
ing the minor chores while he himself is
computing another social modulus, or tri-
angulating to place another banana-peel
where it will do the most good. Our engineer
will bear in mind that Homo sapiens is still
considerably sap. The normal function of the
politician is to take the public where he
thinks it wants to go; the function of our
engineer is to take the public where it will
be glad to be when it gets there.
Testing his materials in advance of con-
struction, a proper engineer will discover
that a very small quantity of clay impairs the
strength of his concrete. He will therefore
proceed to wash his gravel. le will not merely
curs>e the lay. le will not try to educate it



out of the gravel. So our ecological engineer
will recognize the ubiquity of Homo's ration-
alizations, and that these are protective de-
vices used to dilute facts to non-toxic concen-
During his last two years Lovejoy focused
his mind on a single problem: the succession
in ideas about land-use. Just as there are pre-
dictable sequences in the development of
plant and animal communities, knowledge of
which is essential to agriculture and forestry,
so, he argued, there may be predictable se-
quences in human thought about land-use,
knowledge of which may be important to
good administration, extension, and research.
Lovejoy postulated that ideas are con-
ceived, born, grow up, have offspring, be-
come senescent, and die, and that these de-
velopmental phases may have identifiable
characteristics useful in forecasting the fu-
ture or in interpreting the past. The succes-
sive phases may also have characteristic du-
rations, possibly amenable to partial control.
In a letter (3/19/41) he cites the following
history of the deer problem in Michigan as a
sample of the raw material from which a
theory of idea-succession might be deduced:
1. From first talk of star-
vation in deer yards to first
hay hauled ............... 25-50 years
2. From this to first tech-
nical investigation of yards
and the first post-mortems
on dead deer.............      5 years
3. From this to competent
surveys of all yards (via in-
effective digressions such as
hauling hay, or removing ex-
cess by trapping or by stun-
ning with "mercy bullets").    3 years
4. From this to competent
censuses of deer populations
with tallies showing sex and
age composition...........    3 years
5. From this to official
recognition that there must
be more legal kill or else
wholesale starvation; that
populations   have    out-
stripped their winter food
and must go down........       2 years
6. From this to start of
systematic education to mo-
dify the buck law, which in-
hibits increasing the legal kill  2 years
7. From   this  to  first
sportsman-support in asking

the legislature to "git mod-
ern in re deer"..........
Total elapsed time in
idea succession, items
2 to 7, to date......

2 years
17 years

Lovejoy then projects the possible future

8. From asking to getting
legislative repeal of buck law
and authority for "local
regulation"... ............
9. From getting authority
to learning how to use it...
10. Recognition of fire as
a tool for increasing deer food
on areas submarginal for for-
estry ....................
11. Evolution of tech-
niques combining local deer
regulation, forestry, and fire
as  a  tool.................

4- 6 years
5-10 years (?)
10-25 years (?)
? years

I think Lovejoy regarded this sequence of
events as comprising a single stage in the in-
tellectual succession. Through it runs one
idea: too many deer. It grew up under the
dominance of a preceding idea (too few deer),
just as the forb stage grows up under the
dominance of weeds, or the grass stage grows
up under the dominance of forbs. It will be
succeeded by another idea: regulated deer,
locally adjusted to the needs and tolerances
of forestry and other land-uses. Too few deer,
too many deer, and an adjusted deer herd
are three overlapping stages in a succession.
Within the present stage, Lovejoy con-
sidered hay-hauling, trapping, and mercy-
bullets as digressions and evasions arising
from public abhorrence of factual truth, i.e.,
as criteria of "youth" in the idea of too many
deer. Items 4-7 represent education of the
public, by slow degrees, to accept the factual
truth already evident in item 2. Ecological
engineering (i.e., "placing another banana-
peel where it will do the most good") might,
he thought, have hastened ultimate public
Research on excess deer, Lovejoy point-
out, began in item 2 and reached print I
item 6. But research, he says, has only bi
when published:
"It's certainly urgent to get the in:
project born right, washed up, and cryii.-
good, but that's just a stage in raising