The Land Ethic': Rhetorical Analysis

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In Aldo Leopold’s piece, “The Land Ethic” it creates an effective rhetorical analysis with its moral responsibility to the natural world. The idea of a land ethic is simply caring about the community, the land and restoring the relationship between them. Leopold states, “An ethic to supplement and guide the economic relation to land presupposes the mental image of the land as a biotic mechanism. We can be ethical only in relation to something that we can see, feel, understand, love, or otherwise have faith in.”… “The land is an energy circuit, with a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals.” (Leopold 214-216). It gives a key idea on the rhetorical appeals on Leopold’s uses that contribute to environmental communications. Were he uses telos appeal to his purpose, ethos appeal to credibility, and logos appeal to logic to explain his point. His use of these appeals creates an understanding of his rhetorical analysis on land ethic.

As the essay is approaching in the rhetorical analysis on ecological ethics, the rhetorical can be defined by Steven Stang. Were Stang defines rhetoric as “the process of close reading artifacts, looking not only at the overt meaning, but also considering the assumptions (stated and unstated), the strategies and techniques used, the implied audience, the tensions between the stated and implied purpose” (Stang 1). This gives a brief outline of the definition of rhetorical genre analysis within this essay topic. That can proceed in “The Land Ethic,'' as Leopold outlines the principles of ethical relationships with the Earth. He describes the necessity of changing the way humans think about the land as an economic benefit versus a necessity of community life. The solution to this problem is presented in the form of education in ecology and a new understanding of community ethics. His rhetoric in his essay “may be defined as the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” (Stang 1). Leopold’s belief creates a strong appeal to his environmental communication to society. Thus, “The Land Ethic” served as a key text in the development of current environmental ethics. It reflects his belief by protecting nature that would serve people both economically and ethically towards his audiences.

Before discussing deeper into his rhetorical appeals, his telos is an important piece within his essay. As the “The Land Ethic”, is a moral responsibility of humans to the natural world. The idea of land ethics by Leopold remains highly relevant in today’s society, but it can be difficult to understand the morals of the land. “The Land Ethic” is the essence of Leopold’s thought. He states his telos that the basic principle of his land ethic as “A thing is right was it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” (Leopold 225). What he considered to be critical in defining our ability to extend our morality beyond our self-interest is direct contact with the natural world. He hoped his writing would encourage others to start on a similar lifetime outdoor journey, and improve ethical care that would grow out of their own close personal connection with nature. Which is tied towards his environmental communication to society that gives a clear outlook on his rhetorical situation on telos.

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Aldo Leopold uses appeals to credibility, to capture the audience’s trust. The appeals are used such as his humbleness, knowledge of the land ethic, and personal experiences. For instance, “The image commonly employed in conservation education is 'the balance of nature.' For reasons too lengthy to detail here, this figure of speech fails to describe accurately what little we know about the land mechanism. A much truer image is the one employed in ecology: the biotic pyramid. I shall first sketch the pyramid as a symbol of land, and later develop some of its implications in terms of land-use.” (Leopold 214). Rather by putting his knowledge in place of the land ethic, he puts imagery of his knowledge. This creates trust towards the audiences because he describes his vision towards plant and land life. Giving the audience his perspective on the credibility of his humbleness. Another ethos is when Leopold states, “It is difficult to give a fair summary of its content in brief form, but, as I understand it, the content is substantially this: obey the law, vote right, join some organizations, and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land; the government will do the rest.” (Leopold 207). This clearly shows the audience the personal experience of a compassionate community member, who learned ecologist laws. As Leopold says, through educating the community values of the environment, the only way to shape sound environmental policies is through learning. Addressing the rhetorical appeal to his knowledge to his community of landscaping, but also the idea of his natural observations through the environment. With Leopold’s uses of ethos that captures the reader’s trust, he has a clear aspect of his environmental communication towards his audience.

The uses of logic in the “The Land Ethic,'' Leopold discusses we should consider our actions in light of their effect on the environmental communication that is the land, and that we should choose the alternative available that does the least violence or impact, to the community. With this in mind, Leopold says, “A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effect to understand and preserve this capacity.” (Leopold 221). This defines the logic with his land ethic, to his idea of climate change and violence towards the environment. The clear outlook on his rhetorical appeal that ethics should extend into more than the human world. By creating the environment’s health a priority in society’s needs.

As Leopold continues to create ideal facts on his beliefs on environmental ethics. “The Land Ethic”, has shown the environmental logic studies of history and the modern logic about the environment. With his use of logos, he describes his viewpoint with reason, which can be seen as metaphors to communicate ecological ideas. For instance, he describes the land as around river, land pyramid, a food chain, a fountain of energy, a community, etc. As he says, “Land, then, is not merely soil, it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants, and animals. Food chains are the living channels which conduct energy upward; death and decay return it to the soil. The circuit is not closed; some energy is dissipated in decay, some is added by absorption from the air, some is stored in soils, peats, and long-lived forests; but it is a sustained circuit, like a slowly augmented revolving fund of life. There is always a net loss by downhill wash, but this is normally small and offset by the decay of rock. It is deposited in the ocean and in the course of geological time, raided to form new lands and new pyramids.” (Leopold 216). Within this statement, it gives the idea of Leopold’s logic on lands ethic. It gives the audience the rhetorical appeal by demonstrating the abiotic pyramid. His use of metaphor and logic strongly convince his audience of this point.

Overall, Aldo Leopold’s essay gives a rhetorical analysis with its rhetorical appeal on environmental communication. As his belief in society treats the land ethic, by creating disorganization or death that is brought upon their environment. That we should use the land use “in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient.” (Leopold 224). This brings upon his rhetorical appeals to the land ethic. Making his faith come to a point towards his audiences, as he truly cares about the land ethic.

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The Land Ethic’: Rhetorical Analysis. (2022, September 15). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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