MARK MADISON: Hi. Today's June 28, 2010, and this is Mark Madison and Emily Jenkins from the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and this week we're having, and this week, we're having the second annual Student Conservation and Climate Congress, and we have a number invited experts, speakers, who have been addressing the students, and we're with one today, Buddy Huffaker, who is the Executive Director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation.
Welcome, Buddy. Thanks for agreeing to do this.
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Great to be here. It's always good to be at the National Conservation Training Center.
MARK MADISON: And, Buddy, you're executive of the Aldo Leopold Foundation. What does the Foundation do?
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Well, the Foundation was created by the children of Aldo Leopold in response to growing interest in his work and ideas as articulated in "A Sand County Almanac." When they created the Foundation, they entrusted the Foundation with the rights to Aldo's published and unpublished rights and then the property along the Wisconsin River just outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin, which was the landscape that kind of most directly informed and inspired Leopold to write his book, "A Sand County Almanac." So we serve as executor of his literary estate, and we kind of describe ourselves as interpreters and advocates for his ideas as articulated through his term "a land ethic." And so just try to help people understand that people are a part of the biological community as opposed to apart from the biological community, and begin kind of a conversation about what does that mean and what would our society look like if we fully recognized that and recognized our responsibility to the natural world.
MARK MADISON: Great. And also joining us is Emily Jenkins, a Shepherd
University student who is working at NCTC this summer, and, Emily, do you have some questions for Buddy?
EMILY JENKINS: Sure. Buddy, what do you find inspirational about Aldo Leopold?
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Well, as the director of the Leopold Foundation, I find lots of things inspiring about Leopold, but I think what's most compelling to me is how influential his work has become again mainly as author of "A Sand County Almanac." The book has now translated into 11 different languages. So including English, is in 12 languages. And I think what is powerful about that is that he was so eloquent at articulating feelings and values that many of us have about the natural world but is able to do it so much better than the kind of layperson like myself who just have not kind of had the opportunity or had the practice to hone one's writing skills. And so he provides us kind of with a vocabulary that allows us to talk about why the natural world is important, what it means to us, and what we will do individually and collectively to take care of it.
So I think it's his eloquence, it's his ideas, it's his articulation of values that are shared. And one of the things that's just been amazing to me is the whole cross section of our society that can find something in Leopold that means something to them. So whether you're a hunter or an animal rights activist, both read "A Sand County Almanac" and find something in there that talks to them, and so it provides us a place to have a conversation and begin to talk about the things we share in common rather than our points of disagreement where our discourse often breaks down.
MARK MADISON: Now, the Sc3 Conference is approximately 100 high school students from around the country learning more about the conservation field as a possible career or vocation for them. Is there anything in Leopold's life or writing, do you think, that would be particularly inspiring to young people?
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Well, I think, while Leopold is most known as the author of "A Sand County Almanac" because of its ability to kind of transcend time and now languages, if you bury-- or dig into Leopold and his life, he has a fascinating life story, and really was thinking critically about these issues at the same time young people that are gathered here at the Sc3 Conference are, and so you can actually go back to his letters while he was in prep school or at Yale and see the ideas that he was thinking about, the issues that were of concern to him that he would write back in letters to his family or in class projects. Things like the future of our forests he was already writing about when he was in late high school or early college years. And so one great collection is called "The River of the Mother of God," and it's a collection of essays that are arranged chronologically from the time he was a young boy until basically the last essay that he wrote in his life. And you can see the evolution of his thinking, his writing skills. And so that beyond "A Sand County Almanac," that's probably the next place I'd go to see Leopold's own writing and some of the things he was thinking about when he was a young adult and then over the course of his career. And there are some wonderful biographies. Kurt Meine's "Aldo Leopold Life and Times" if you want to dig into his personal life story, which again is quite compelling and fascinating. And then "A Fierce Green Fire" is a little bit shorter read that also will give you some biographical information on him.
So, you know, there's just lots of places to go with him. He was thinking about things like green labeling in the 1930s that we now have with organic certification and certified wood products. All these things were things he was kind of thinking about some 40, 50, 60 years before they finally came to pass.
MARK MADISON: You also have a pretty extra ordinary headquarters out there, the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center. Do you want to tell us a little about that?
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Yeah. I welcome everybody to come visit us at the Leopold Center. You can see when it was built it was the world's greenest building. We've now gotten knocked off a couple of pegs, which is great, as the building community and green building environment continues to advance. You can also visit the shack and the farm that was the inspiration for his seminal work.
But the Center itself, I think probably the most compelling part of the story is that it was actually built out of trees that Aldo and his family planted in the 1930s and '40s, and I just always love to say when people come to visit us, you know, Leopold was anticipating your arrival. He planted these trees 75 years ago just so that we could build a building for you to come visit and learn more about his ideas.
But, you know, all joking aside, I think it really is one of the most amazing aspects of his life that when he was thinking about these very big and compelling and daunting issues about people's relationship to land, what did he do? He planted trees. He took action where he could. And it was just such an honor and privilege to be part of the process that recognized that the forest health was in decline and that we needed to remove some of the less healthy trees and leave the best ones and that we were going to be able to use those for building materials in the new Center. And so now Leopold's trees literally hold the roof up over his land ethic, we like to say.
And so we have interpretive exhibits about him and his life. We have meeting spaces for classes and conferences. We have people come literally from all over the world to come see the place that inspired Leopold to write "A Sand County Almanac."
The other big thing we were trying to do was produce as much energy as we consume over the course of a year, and after three years of data, unfortunately, we can't say we've hit that target, but we can say we're at about 90%. Of all the energy it takes to run this facility over the course of a year, we produce 90% of it right on site through photovoltaics, geothermal and some sustainable wood harvesting for a few wood stoves in the facility.
So it's gotten a lot of attention because of its contribution, kind of setting the bar at a new level for green building, and so what's kind of interesting is this new dynamic we have where we have lots of people come to the facility who are from the architecture and engineering community and have never heard of Aldo Leopold but have heard of our building and want to come see it. And then we get to introduce them to the larger conservation movement and this kind of shared heritage that we have that really it's not a clear thread but really does provide the foundation for the new kind of green building movement, if you can trace that well enough.
And then we have other people who are die-hard conservationists who have known Leopold for decades and come and get introduced to this new world of green building and what they can do in their homes or in their places of work to create more sustainable built environments.
So, it's a really neat conversation that we get to have in our new facility.
MARK MADISON: Sounds great. Buddy, if people wanted to come visit you, you're in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Is there a web site or something they could check out?
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Absolutely. www.aldoleopold.org.
MARK MADISON: Well, thank you very much. We've been talking about Buddy Huffaker, the Executive Director of the Aldo Leopold Foundation, and we hope you all get a chance to visit the Center.
BUDDY HUFFAKER: Thank you, and thanks to the National Conservation Training Center. This is a wonderful place.
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