Once in his {her} life a man {woman} ought to concentrate his {her} mind upon the remembered Earth, I believe. He {She} ought to give himself {herself} up to a particular landscape in his {her} experience to look at it from as many angles as he {she} can, to wonder about it, to dwell upon it. {She} He ought to imagine that {she} he touches it with {her} his hands at every season and listens to the sounds that are made upon it. {She} He ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. He {She} ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk.

We Americans need now more than ever before—and indeed more than we know—to imagine who and what we are with respect to the Earth and sky. I am talking about an act of the imagination, essentially, and the concept of an American land ethic.

We have become disoriented, I believe; we have suffered a kind of psychic dislocation of ourselves in time and space. We may be perfectly sure of where we are in relation to the supermarket and the next coffee break, but I doubt that any of us knows where he {she} is in relation to the stars and to the solstices. Our sense of the natural order has become dull and unreliable. Like the wilderness itself, our sphere of instinct has diminished in proportion as we have failed to imagine truly what it is. And yet I believe that it is possible to formulate an ethical idea of the land—the notion of what it is and must be in our daily lives—and I believe moreover that it is absolutely necessary to do so.

—N. Scott Momaday,
“An Ethic of the Earth” in Moral Ground,
edited by Kathleen Dean Moore @ Michael P. Nelson