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Leopold Week  •  Programs and Events

The Aldo Leopold Foundation will be closed to the public for a private event on Saturday, September 30.


A Translation of Care

Editor’s note:
Earlier in 2021, the many years that Sinisa Golub toiled to translate Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (ASCA) into the Croatian language came to fruition with its publication in his native country. The backstory includes deep interaction between The Aldo Leopold Foundation, its executive director Buddy Huffaker, and Golub. 

A Book for Centuries to Come
By Sinisa Golub

In the year when we celebrate Earth Day (April 22) for the fifty-first time, and no less important World Wetlands Day (February 2) for the fiftieth time, Croatian readers and eco-activist public are being introduced to the book which has nurtured generations of worldwide naturalists, ecologists, activists, conservationists in the theoretical and practical fields, rangers and hunters, philosophers, ethicists, bioethicists, eco-historians, writers, and various artists who dedicate their work to land and the Earth.

It is quite a surprise that this significant book on nature conservation, quoted and referred to so often, was not translated to Croatian sooner. We may be less surprised if we consider the fact that there is no Croatian translation of the spiritual “father of national parks”, John Muir, and that equally cult-worthy Walden by H. D. Thoreau was only published in Croatia in 2005. On the other hand, we may be more surprised if we have the awareness of how many individuals and institutions have built on the work begun by Leopold, whether in theory or practice.

Along with Latvian, Croatian is the smallest language to which this book has been translated. Along with several English editions, A Sand County Almanac has also been translated to Chinese, Czech, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. In other words, Croatian is the 15th world language in which the translation appears, this time under the title Ljetopis Pješčanog Okruga.

Neither experts nor scientists in Croatia have taken much interest in Leopold, although he is one of the greatest nature conservationist, practical applicants, professors, and philosophers in the field. In Croatian publications, Leopold appears only as side note in ecological lexicons, several scientific papers, and some articles in the field of popular science, primarily published in professional journals with a limited circulation. Some change has occurred, however, in the past decade.

A Croatian citizen enjoys the words of Aldo Leopold in their native tongue.

Why is Leopold almost unknow in Croatia? It seems there were no generations of Croatian foresters and hunters that came into close enough proximity with this book by Leopold, or, if they did, then there was a lack of the ways and means to translate and publish it in Croatian. It is precisely in this book that Leopold observantly harbingers what Croatian foresters and hunters love to highlight as an absolute and irrefutable fact—that they are, in actuality, the greatest practical ecologists and conservationists in the specific meaning of the terms.

In the third decade of the 21st century, and a full seventy years after its first publication, this cosmic injustice towards Leopold and his best-known work is being rectified by an author and a practitioner in the field of nature conservation. In the process, he hopes that hunters, foresters, and landowners from this linguistic area will find it inspiring enough to take some proper action and develop a more ethical relationship with the land and biotic communities which they manage, following either written or unwritten laws. In this manner, each true nature lover and enlightened landowner who thinks and perceives things outside the stimuli by acre will find confirmation that they are not alone in their musings. In his book, Leopold wrote down many universal thoughts and sentiments, which less skillful naturalists and farmers were simply unable to convey to the general reading public. This is exactly why they felt professionally alone and generally misunderstood.

With its simplicity, immediacy, expressive style, but also depth and many different layers of meaning, A Sand County Almanac has captured the hearts of millions of readers in a vast range of generations and geographical coordinates. It is one of those rare books about which more pages (of analyses and contemplations) have been written than it consists of itself.

The focus of Leopold’s ecological or ethical interest is not (just) on great, intact, and officially protected natural areas, such as national parks or national forests. He is also interested in small farms and, in American terms, relatively small properties with forested and agricultural patches, which need a good “husband”, or owner. Leopold considers them “great possessions“. In his rural county he uncovers the same mechanics and gripping biotic dramas being played out, as those in more popular areas which the largest part of the modern-day world population considers destinations where they can escape the everyday life. Leopold, therefore, reveals the world in our back yard, in a nearby meadow, forest, treetop, or stream. The vast natural world has been compressed into this short masterpiece book, just like he managed to compress eighty years of American ecohistory into a single trunk of the Good Oak. And what a world it is—the Almanac mentions 375 species in 140 habitats of varying sizes.

At the same time, it invites us to conserve nature, to treat ethically the land community—or, land, waters, plants, and animals, collectively called—the land. He is acutely aware that we can only be ethical in relation to something we can see, understand, feel, love, or otherwise have faith in.


Learn more about A Sand County Almanac and its many translations.