Talk on Leopold's land ethic to launch ethics center's spring season

Contact: Mark Schwerin
Photo of WMU alumnus Andy Sanford.


KALAMAZOO—An environmental ethics talk that focuses on ecologist Aldo Leopold's land ethic environmental philosophy will kick off the Western Michigan University Center for the Study of Ethics in Society's spring season.

Andy Sanford, a WMU alumnus and adjunct instructor of philosophy at Southwestern Michigan College, will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, in the WMU Office for Sustainability at the corner of Howard Street and West Michigan Avenue. His presentation is free and open to the public.

Leopold, an American author, scientist, ecologist, forester, University of Wisconsin professor and environmentalist, is probably best known as the author of "A Sand County Almanac." In his famous book, Leopold called for a new "land ethic" governing the treatment by humans of the land with the idea becoming a classic concept in environmental philosophy. In his presentation, Sanford will begin with an exposition of what Leopold meant by his land ethic and then move toward an exploration of another famous Leopold essay titled "Thinking Like a Mountain."

Sanford will discuss the aesthetic notions of beauty and the sublime, using insights gained from Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and Edmund Burke, particularly their examination of the sublime as a quality of greatness. He argues that natural beauty and the sublime are powerful psychological influences on the development of notions of man's obligations toward the natural world. This is particularly important, he notes, in motivating individuals, communities and businesses to formulate and accept notions of obligations and then apply these to create effective sustainable practices and adopt them. This, he suggests, is essential to creating cultural norms that move our society toward near universally adopted environmental regulations and best practices, which move us toward more responsible environmental stewardship.

Andy Sanford

Sanford earned his master's in philosophy at WMU in 2013. Before returning to school in 2008, he served in the U.S. Army during the early 1990s and spent 12 years in private security and law enforcement. His interest in philosophy began while pursuing a criminal justice degree. His specific interest in environmental philosophy stems from an experience he had while traveling in the Philippines in 2007. He has presented papers on environmental issues at Grand Valley State University, Butler University and Eastern Michigan University. He also has been invited to speak on environmental issues at community organizations and nature centers, most recently at Pierce Cedar Creek Institute in Hastings, Mich. Sanford also teaches courses at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor.

Upcoming presentations

Dates, speakers, times, locations and titles of other presentations in the spring series are:

  • Feb. 14: Dr. Patricia H. Werhane, the Wicklander Professor of Business Ethics and managing director, Institute for Business and Professional Ethics, DePaul University, 3 p.m., 1120 Schneider Hall, "Globalization and Its Discontents."
  • Feb. 17: Dr. Michael Pritchard, WMU professor of philosophy; Dr. Elaine Englehardt, Distinguished Professor of Ethics, Utah Valley University; and Dr. Shirley Bach, WMU professor emerita of philosophy, 7 p.m., University Center for the Humanities, 2500 Knauss Hall, "Breakthroughs in Genomics and Ethics."
  • March 25: Heather D. Schild, WMU doctoral student in sociology, 6 p.m., University Center for the Humanities, 2500 Knauss Hall, "Anorexia/Bulimia, Transcendence and the Potential Impact of Romanticized/Sexualized Death Imagery."
  • April 3: Dr. Christina Puchalski, founder and director, The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health, Washington, D.C., 4 p.m., Fetzer Center Kirsch Auditorium, "Spirituality and Palliative Care."