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Boldt Celebrates Earth Day: A Study of Leopold’s Land Ethic and Our Responsibility as Environmental Stewards

On April 22, 2015, the Boldt Company celebrated Earth Day by studying Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac and the Green Fire documentary. I helped coordinate leaders to host events at several Boldt locations throughout the United States including Tulsa, Oklahoma, San Francisco, California, Chicago, Illinois, Marshalltown, Iowa and Appleton and Wausau here in Wisconsin. Nearly 100 employees in the company participated in the event. Discussion topics ranged from the passenger pigeon, to fear of not owning a farm as well as the land ethic as a whole. The exercise led to some interesting perspectives and dialogue regarding our place in the land community.

Ken Brickner, one of the Boldt employees that helped lead the Leopold Earth Day discussions.

Ken Brickner, one of the Boldt employees that helped lead the Leopold Earth Day discussions.

The Boldt Company embraces Aldo Leopold by giving every new employee a copy of A Sand County Almanac as part of their onboarding process. This puts sustainability at the forefront with other values of The Boldt Company. Each employee understands that they have a responsibility to practice good environmental stewardship, and Aldo Leopold’s work lays the foundation for that. Our President and CEO Tom Boldt feels that as a construction company, Boldt has a unique opportunity to make a positive environmental impact every day through our work and encourages employees to embrace the challenge.

Tom Boldt

Tom Boldt is the President and CEO of the Boldt Company and a former Chair of the Aldo Leopold Foundation Board of Directors.

I was the host in Boldt’s Appleton office, where over 40 employees joined me for the Earth Day event. I was struck by an interesting perspective that came from one of my colleagues, Dick Devries. When we talked about Leopold’s statement that there are “two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm,” Dick brought up the contrast of his grandfather’s way of life in comparison to his grandson’s. He shared how the lifestyle of his grandfather, a self-sufficient farmer who grew his own vegetables and livestock, was vastly different than his grandson’s, who lives in an urban community like many people today. I related with Dick’s story, and shared that on my father’s dairy farm my family would simply go to the milk house, instead of the grocery store, to get more milk. Over only a few generations, our lifestyles and experiences have changed dramatically, making it even more important to recognize Leopold and his call to be more connected to and aware of our link to the natural world.

Still from the Green Fire film showing a dairy farm in Coon Valley, Wisconsin

Still from the Green Fire film showing a dairy farm in Coon Valley, Wisconsin

The topic of the passenger pigeon raised some interesting discussions in Appleton as well. Leopold says, “The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to the glory of spring?” The group was asked to think of technological advancements that provide us with more comfort, but devalue our experiences. The main ideas that resonated included the importance of thinking before we act, keeping things in perspective and maintaining a healthy balance when it comes to our interactions with the natural and artificial elements. The story of the passenger pigeon hits close to home for Boldt, as the company recently donated restoration efforts for the 67 year old passenger pigeon monument located in Wyalusing State Park near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

This monument to the passenger pigeon at Wyalusing State Park was recently restored thanks to the support of the Boldt Company.

The Wyalusing State Park monument to the passenger pigeon

The Earth Day event in all of the offices concluded with a discussion of Leopold’s community concept as a whole. I wanted my peers to consider the overall message of the land ethic. I asked everyone to consider the following passage and give their thoughts: “A land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies the respect for his fellow members, and also respect for the community as such.” My co-worker Carrie Schumacher expressed the importance of how we interpret Leopold’s concept of the Land Ethic. Carrie felt that Leopold’s concept asks us to consider ourselves as equal members of the land community, as opposed to ranking importance of one part in relation to another. This is an important distinction I believe we need to make. Determining that all parts play a role without having to place larger importance of one over another is key to understanding Aldo Leopold’s definition of community and how we can best value all the unique members and the contributions that are included in that definition.

After this experience, I feel very fortunate to work for a company that truly embraces the land ethic and allows me the opportunity to share the values of Leopold with my colleagues. It is also uplifting to know that so many individuals at Boldt are eager to live as responsible members of the land community, not just on Earth Day, but every day!