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Copyright (c) 2006 The Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle, PA
Penn State Environmental Law Review

Article: Toward a Legal Land Ethic: Punitive Damages, Natural Value, and the Ecological Commons

Fall, 2006

15 Penn St. Envtl. L. Rev. 91


Alex Sienkiewicz*



Natural values may be understood as the whole of the earth's ecological communities and all of the parts, processes, interactions, relationships, and resources that spring therefrom. More prosaic definitions of natural values include the terms natural resources or ecosystem services. 2 Others take a purely anthropocentric-utilitarian stance: "natural resources are ... the individual elements of the natural environment that provide economic and social services to human society." 3 Aldo Leopold - considered by many to be the father of wildlife management, restoration ecology, and the land ethic 4 - was an early proponent of the idea that humanity should be conscious of its relationships with the land and should conserve natural values. 5 This was premised, in part, on the notion that natural values tend to suffer for human prosperity. Among Leopold's notable quotations is that which states,

The outstanding scientific discovery of the twentieth century is not television or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it. The last word in ignorance is that man who says of animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is ...
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