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Aldo Leopold was a tree hugger extraordinaire—but he wasn't a big reader of classic literature. In fact, this dude had no idea that one day his radical new way of writing about nature would be the foundation for an entire school of literary criticism called ecocriticism.
This guy read books on wildlife biology and spent most of his time outside hunting and counting birds. How on earth did his ideas about ducks, deer, and wolves get into the ivory tower of literary analysis? By thinking like a mountain, that's how.
Well, to start with, Leopold was all about the awesomeness of nature. Now, you may be thinking, this is nothing new. The Romantic poets were doing this a long time ago. John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley and evens modernists like T.S. Eliot were tearing their hair out over the power and beauty of nature. What's the big deal?
The big deal is that Leopold combined hard scientific study with poetic language to create an interdisciplinary form of writing. Leopold wanted to get both creative writing and scientific study to be ecocentric—that is, he wanted both science and writing to focus on the community of living things, and not just on one single organism in that community.
Ladies and gentlemen, that means you. Leopold wants you to think of nature differently. If you were a tree, how would you express your love for water? If you were a mountain, how would you express the loss of the big herds of elk that trim your meadows? Leopold wants you to step off the humans-are-the-coolest bandwagon and walk for a while alongside elk and buffalo and prairie grass.
Just watch out for the fresh poop; it can get pretty messy out there.