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Outdoor Ethics and the BSA

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I’ve spent some time reviewing the new Outdoor Ethics materials published by the BSA.

Outdoor ethics have always been a part of Scouting. While the basic ethical imperatives have remained constant, our application and interpretation of them has changed and evolved over time.

One constant is the outdoor code:

As an American, I will do my best to—
Be clean in my outdoor manners. 
Be careful with fire.
Be considerate in the outdoors.
Be conservation minded.

Leave no Trace is also a familiar part of our program but one fairly new partnership is the Tread lightly program. Tread lightly is aimed at ethical use of motorized vehicles, boating  and cycling in wilderness areas.

The Land Ethic is based on the writings of  Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac. The basic ideas of the Land Ethic are:

  1. That land is not merely soil;
  2. That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may or may not;
  3. That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than intended or foreseen. These ideas, collectively, raise two issues: Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?

In introducing this idea we are encouraging our Scouts, and challenging ourselves, to reconsider our relationship to the natural world on a very basic level. Leopold described the Land Ethic this way:

“A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.”

Scouting can do a great deal to  promote strong outdoor ethics with simple practices that emphasize our place in and relationship to the natural world.  I think this new approach to outdoor ethics is a great way to incorporate these ideas into the fabric of the Scouting experience.

Awards, training, and educational opportunities are described in this PDF brochure.