Posts Tagged ‘Steve Dunsky’

On this date in 1887, author, forester, ecologist, and conservationist Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa. The founder of the science of wildlife management and a major influence on the wilderness movement, wildlife preservation, and environmental ethics, he is perhaps best known for his book, A Sand County Almanac (1949). In honor of his birthday, we’ve asked filmmaker Steve Dunsky to share his thoughts about the subject of his latest documentary film.

As one of the filmmakers of Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and A Land Ethic for Our Time, I was asked for my reflections on the occasion of Aldo Leopold’s birthday. January 11, 2012, marks the 125th anniversary of his birth. When he died suddenly in 1948, he was only 61 years old. He has been dead now for more years than he was alive.

A film about a person who died more than six decades ago runs the risk of being irrelevant. Particularly if that person is a conservationist and scientist; our planet, and our understanding of it, have changed so dramatically in the past half century. But Leopold’s ideas are so enduring, so far ahead of his time, that we find his story resonates with audiences across the United States, and in the seventeen other countries where the film has screened to date.

Green Fire posterGreen Fire has clearly struck a chord. More than 1,000 people turned up to the world premiere last February. Since then, screenings, both large and small, have been held in libraries, schools, nature centers, and independent theaters. We have seen audiences of 600 on college campuses, despite a distribution and marketing effort that is purely a grass roots effort and by word-of-mouth.

Making Leopold’s story relevant today was a major focus of our film team. My wife Ann and I, along with our Forest Service colleague Dave Steinke, directed and produced the film. With our partners the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Center for Humans and Nature, we set out to tell both the story of Leopold’s life and his contemporary legacy.

Leopold biographer Curt Meine, the film’s narrator/guide, weaves together Leopold’s biography with the stories of people who are living Leopold’s land ethic today—from ranchers in New Mexico to environmental educators in Chicago. As the voice of Leopold, narrator Peter Coyote brings Leopold’s wonderful language to life.

In the film, NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco says that Leopold’s land ethic (she calls it an “Earth ethic”) is more relevant today than it has ever been. As I write this, I am attending the Waimea Ocean Film Festival in Hawaii, where Green Fire has screened four times. It is so easy to make the connection to oceans because the land ethic is a universal concept.

Leopold’s legacy also includes the cutting-edge conservation disciplines of today: protecting biodiversity, restoring damaged ecosystems, growing healthy local food. Leopold’s concept of land health speaks directly to current notions of healthy ecosystems and their connection to healthy communities. Everyone gets it.

Aldo Leopold and "Flip" on the Apache National Forest in Arizona, 1911. (FHS4408)

One of the questions we often hear following our screenings is: What did you learn about Leopold during the making of this film?

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