Ufuk Özdag presented “Revisiting A Sand County Almanac: A Turkish Perspective” Monday evening at the Burlington Public Library.
Özdag translated Burlington native Aldo Leopold’s famous 1949 book, “A Sand County Almanac,” to Turkish in 2013 and spoke about how vital the translation is to her county.
Turkey lacks proper environmental education. School systems do not teach about nature and the minimal hunting and land management regulations are not controlled, according to Özdag, who teaches in the American Studies department at Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey.
Özdag emphasized this point with a story of her own childhood. An ivory statuette stood displayed in the living room of her childhood home, but growing up, Özdag never realized an elephant was killed to create it. However, Özdag learned English at the age of 7 and reading Leopold’s work changed her life.
“When I was a kid, I never questioned all these things,” Özdag said. “So ‘A Sand County Almanac’ comes my way, and this new kind of writing opens my eyes to nature, and therefore, we need that almanac in my country.”
Özdag visited the United States in 1998 and found herself amazed scholars were taking an active part in the protection of the environment through their writing. She said such a writing style is “almost non-existent” in the Turkish literary heritage.
She watched her country perform cultural crane dances that began 8,500 years ago, but there are no cranes in the skies above because their habitats have been destroyed in the past half-century. The influence of Leopold’s writing made Özdag realize she needed to do something.
So, in 2010, she took a sabbatical and began her translation of “A Sand County Almanac” with precision, making sure to get the names of each animal and plant correct.
“The translation process was like weaving a Turkish carpet. All day long and then at the end of the day you see that you have advanced just this much,” Özdag said as she held her fingers mere inches apart.
Özdag said she thought if she could bring “A Sand County Almanac” to Turkey it would encourage her country to stop draining wetlands and clear cutting fields and instead learn the importance of land ethic.
As founder and director of the new Land Ethic Research Center at Hacettepe University, Özdag has begun to bring Leopold’s writing and the concept of land ethic to her student’s attention. She said several of her students have begun to mimic elements of his writing in their own works.
In the future, Özdag’s aims to introduce her translation of “A Sand County Almanac” into the school system, bringing its lessons in environmental education to middle and high school students.
“Eventually, it will be heard as it is in the United States,” Özdag said. “It is a slow process. but I am thinking that it will take fire.”
Özdag is a visiting professor in the Environmental Studies Program at Vassar College and has written several books, including “Literature and Land Ethic: Leopoldian thought in American Nature Writing.”
The Leopold Landscape Alliance and Friends of the Burlington Public Library sponsored the event.
Özdag said Leopold’s work has had a lasting impact that must be shared throughout the world, far beyond only those who can read English.
“To some peoples of the world, God grants guiding lights. These guiding spirits, although they take action on behalf of their own countries or their own communities, their accomplishments are globally important,” Özdag said. “Their light shines on other countries, on peoples living around the world equally. The guiding light granted to Americans is, I believe, Aldo Leopold.”