While I do not believe we can ever fully adopt a lifestyle that would be in line with Leopold’s “Land Ethic,” I do think (with major changes and adjustments) we can make improvements towards a more sustainable way of living. To change our role from a “conqueror of the land to a member of it” would require us to become less dependent on current technologies and more self-reliant, with a better ability to distinguish wants from needs. The ability of technology to mass produce our food, make it easily available, and offer it in many forms has led us to normalize overproduction as well as overconsumption. It seems a bit ridiculous to be offered the same product by multiple producers. I believe that if we start living well in our places, it could lead to much more sustainable practices where we produce only enough for current need in the local area. For places that cannot support agriculture, it would be understandable to have food imported, however, alternative farming methods could be used, such as hydroponics. Other places could be separated into regions where agriculture is bought and sold solely for that region, and there could be a greater use of community supported agriculture. This would give farmers a greater importance in the area, help keep food more affordable by avoiding shipping and the middle-man, and help us become a society less dependent on mass production, especially if we were required to individually order foods and products that are not offered in the area. It would encourage the community to be more involved in local food production, aid crop diversity, be more knowledgeable of the land, and be more appreciative of what is available at the present moment.
However, I do recognize there could be faults with this idea of localized production and consumption. For example, if a disease killed a crop that many were depending on, it could possibly cripple part of the system and force us to ship in food from elsewhere (also putting pressure on communities elsewhere). To prevent disease and pest issues, we could use current biotechnology with genetically modified crops, however, organic farming is an alternative. Although labor intensive, organic farming can be almost waste-free and completely sustainable when planned right.
It would be extremely difficult for our current society to adopt the “Land Ethic,” but with extreme changes in our food production, we can come closer to living a more connected lifestyle with the land.