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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wisconsin's Literary Conservationists

Milwaukee library discusses August Derleth and Aldo Leopold

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­­Soon Wisconsinites across the state will emerge from indoor hibernation with a grateful appreciation for their natural surroundings as the state's landscape comes alive with color and wildlife. Countless citizens throughout Wisconsin's history have captured this springtime beauty through lyrical prose and poetry akin to an unmatched intimacy with nature; however, none have achieved such fame in American regional writing as Sauk County erudites August Derleth and Aldo Leopold. Derleth was a prolific Wisconsin author whose works spanned genres from historical fiction, science fiction, poetry and biography, resulting in more than 150 short stories and over 100 books during his lifetime. A versatile literati, August Derleth considered his most serious composition to be the Sac Prairie series, which combined Derleth's abiding affection for the natural world with a deep respect for his Wisconsin heritage. The saga eventually grew to nearly 40 volumes of work chronicling the history and people of Wisconsin and cementing his place as a pioneering conservationist.

While state residents may not be acquainted with Derleth's well-read publications, chances are that another renowned nature essayist, Aldo Leopold, is a familiar name. Leopold, known as the father of the land ethic philosophy, is the author of A Sand County Almanac, a literary piece de resistance in conservation that guided numerous individuals to live in harmony with the environment. During his lifetime Leopold's philosophies and observations inspired many to view the natural world as a community that should be protected and preserved, and leading, in many ways, to the creation of the current ecological movement.

The ideologies and doctrines of these two famous environmentalists will be explored in depth at the Milwaukee Central Library on April 9 at 2 p.m. as part of the Language of Conservation Program.