Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Yet the Trees Grow

Unpublished essay by Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), quoted in Curt Meine, Aldo Leopold: His Life and Work (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1988), p. 421 with note on p. 576:
Empires spread over the continents, destroying the soils, the floras and faunas, and each other. Yet the trees grow.

Philosophies spread over the empires, teaching the good life with tank and bomb. Machines crawl over the empires, hauling goods. Goods are plowed under, or burned. Goods are hawked over the ether, and along lanes where Whitman smelled locust blooms morning and evening. Quarrels over goods are planted thick as trees along all the rivers of America. The offal of goods floats down the rivers, settles in the swimming holes. Fish choked with goods float belly-up in the shallows. Dykes to grow goods dry up the waterfowl. Dams to make goods block the salmon runs, but not the barges carrying goods. Railroads carrying goods race the barges. Trucks carrying goods race the railroads. Cars carrying consumers of goods race the trucks. Yet the trees grow.

A folklore of goods fills the curricula. Farmers learn the farm is a factory. Chemists and physicists harness power, biology harnesses plants and animals, all for goods. Politics is the redistribution of goods. Literature and the arts portray the drama of the haves and have-nots. Research is not to decipher the universe, but to step up production. Yet the trees grow.

The rains which fall on the just and unjust wash silt from the factory-farms. The brooks that make the meadows green feed silt to the rivers. The vales, lying in pensive quietness between, feed silt to the brooks. The hills, rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, feed silt to the vales. Yet the trees grow.68

68 "Yet Come June," 23 December 1941, LP 10-6, 16. Leopold's manuscript of this unpublished essay shows extensive revision. This version follows as closely as possible Leopold's last editorial remarks.
Cf. Walt Whitman, "We Two, How Long We Were Fool'd," line 9:
We are what locust blossoms are, we drop scent around lanes mornings and evenings.

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