Leopold encouraged people to expand their vision of the world around them to include the natural world in their community as they would their neighbors. When people begin to look at plants, animals, soils, and waters in that context, they may consider them in a different way.
1. Compare your values with Leopold’s: Is the ability to see geese more important to you than television or social media? Are you one who can live without wild things or one who cannot? How do various groups in American society currently determine the value of wild things? How is this demonstrated? How do disagreements about values play out in our government or society?
2. Leopold talks about the need to “get the company back in step.” Who is the company in this metaphor? What does Leopold suggest might be needed for the company to get back in step? Has the definition of conservation changed or stayed the same since Leopold’s time? What does Leopold refer to when he talks about “community”?
Leopold’s own misdeeds led him to be very concerned about the impacts of those with good intentions, but incomplete information. According to Leopold, humanity’s blind pursuit of “success” needs to be re-evaluated.
3. Politicians are often criticized for changing their minds or positions on issues. However, it is critical for scientists to be able to do just this, sometimes referred to as a “paradigm shift.” Can you think about a time when learning allowed you consciously to change your mind about something? Is this the goal of education?
4. This essay identifies many different perspectives, that of the wolf, the hunter, the rancher, and ultimately the mountain. Leopold is challenging the reader to re-read the natural order from the mountain’s perspective. What does that mean to you?
5. Leopold describes the intense power of seeing the “green fire” die in the wolf’s eye, but he didn’t understand until many years later why his actions felt wrong. Have you ever done something environmentally related you thought was OK, but regretted it later once you became more aware? What made you realize you were mistaken?
6. At the end of the essay Leopold seems to be asking if complacency, or “safety,” will ultimately result in danger. “Wildness” reminds us that we cannot, or perhaps even should not, try to control everything. Do you agree? Why/why not?