The influence of John Muir
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On the kind of world we have today, where almost everything is industrialized and business is the main concern of the people, it is hard to find someone who has a passion for nature since human passions “are among the least culturally constructed parts of our minds” (Muir, qtd. in Worster 1). Every day is a busy day for a typical working person and environmental concern is in the last of his priorities. The vision of John Muir to preserve the Creation can be considered as an unfinished business since factories and urban settlements continue to extend due to population overcrowd; even trimming down a large portion of a forest for profit sake. Though Muir lived most of his life in the 19th century, his advocacy did not stop there. Organizations and other environmental movements were created inspired by his vision. John Muir’s Books, Journals, and Other Writings influenced the Conservation Movement, swayed presidents and congressmen into preserving land for national parks, and touched millions more lives throughout the twentieth century. Muir sees the environment not just as a “stock for raw materials” but more like a spiritual source (Wood, Jr.). Muir’s devotion to the wildlife and his passion to preserve it was the seed for all the actions modern conservationists do.
On March 28, 1868, Muir asked a carpenter where is the easiest way to escape the city. When the carpenter asked where did he want to go, Muir’s short, yet meaningful reply was: “Anywhere that is wild” (Perrottet). When thinking about Yosemite National Park, one cannot help but associate it with John Muir, as he was the one who led it to its conservation. His conversation with the carpenter showed much of his passion to preserve the wilderness. This innate attachment to nature allowed him to perceive another level of realization on the needs of the environment and eventually grew into one of America’s inspiration for environment conservation. “The literary and artistic works of the nineteenth century” paved way for the “recognition of the relationship between man and nature” (“Conservation Movement”). Many Americans in the time period take inspiration from the American flora and fauna and romanticize it through literature and arts. Writers and artists like Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and George Caitlin were part of this action for nature’s preservation. John Muir’s travels strengthened his idea of nature conservation. He saw a lot of good things in nature as he walks through it and realized that it should be protected. His first visit in Yosemite in 1868 he was overwhelmed by its beauty. This travel led him to write series of articles which appeared in Century magazine, emphasizing the increasing forest devastation. Soon after, Muir and his fellow conservationist founded the organization The Sierra club which advocates on the preservation of the wild and the planet (“John Muir”). Not only did Muir fight against environmental issues, but he also considered the unjust labor that the Americans had to do in order to sustain their daily needs. Muir realized that the people’s activities may have adverse effects towards the environment. As quoted by Zichela, Muir also expressed “complementary sentiment” to the government saying that before they would spend capital for a business, they should prioritize first the welfare of the wildlife. Now, The Sierra Club is one of the pillars of conservation movements in America. Nowadays, there are hundreds of organizations that took inspiration from Muir’s vision such as the Carolina Wildlife Care wherein the goal is to “establish harmony between humans and wildlife.” As it is unavoidable for humans and wildlife to live in one planet, CWC’s mission is to fill in the gap between these two creations and possibly build a bond to improve each other. The CWC is just one of the many organized institutions whose aim is to protect nature.
Muir’s vision had traveled through time but during his lifetime, his endeavors are somewhat dependent on the state’s whereabouts. In order to address the realization of his advocacy, Muir must relay his massage to the government thoroughly so as to convince them that his concept on environmental preservation is worth spending time. His articles made an impression of the then-President Theodore Roosevelt. Upon accompanying Muir to the park, Muir explained to him the “mismanagement of the valley,” and the only thing to resolve this is through federal protection. Muir led Roosevelt to Yosemite and spent a night talking about his environmental ideals and Roosevelt’s “innovative and notable conservation programs” (Dallas Ecological Foundation). That night was quoted “the night President Roosevelt could never forget (“John Muir”); that night-long conversation led to the preservation of the Yosemite. Nowadays, the different legislation passed in America should always consider Muir’s advocacy. Woolridge cited a statement which the California Senator Barbara Boxer said that the American Government should not forget “Muir’s call to protect world places.” However, in contradiction to what Senator Boxer said, Woolridge also mentioned that the senator is also helping illegal migrants, thus increasing the US population and consequently harm the environment. He said that the overcrowded California by these illegal (which turns to legal in the process) immigration is a potential harm to Californian wildlife. These migrants would eventually find a means of living and thus encouraging business organizations to extend factories and the like as to “employ the people.” Population may or may not serve as a threat to the environment; it depends on how these people would care. However, the seduction brought about by money is powerful enough to erase one’s principle in nature preservation. In another note, as Muir called it “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples,” the call to preserve the Hetch Hetchy Valley reached Donald Hodel, the former Secretary of the Interior. The proposal was to remove the O’Shaughnessy Dam and revive the natural wonder of Hetch Hetchy. There are three components found in the Hodel Proposal. First, is the removal of the dam; second is the alternative ways to replace water and power supply brought by the dam; and lastly, “discuss the environmental impacts of removing (“Hetch Hetchy Restoration Study”). The government and environmentalists are now hands-on to the conservation of America’s wildlife. Though the increasing immigration and population affected much of the ecosystem, the organizations which help in environmental restoration are not forgetting their purpose; and this purpose was inspired by the visionary Muir.
Muir’s life has been an inspiration from the day he started moving for his advocacy until the modern times. Dubbed as the “Father of National Parks,” his legacy continues to inspire millions of people who have the will to preserve the environment. As what Wood, Jr. said in one of his articles, “John Muir’s life and voice remain a continuing inspiration to people today all over the world” who still have the hope to preserve the remaining natural wonders Earth has. Muir’s vision led to the establishment of different national parks and The Sierra Club, of which he was the founder and its first president, remain steadfast in pursuing the battle for environmental awareness and protection even in the adversities of the modern times. This even influenced other organizations and encouraged young people to get involved through The Sierra Club’s Youth Awards. The establishment of schools in honor of his vision even served greater impact to the youth as these institutions give them the chance to have a brighter future and at the same time involving them at different environmental activities. Youth involvement must be given emphasis for they are the one who “have to live for an extended period with the deteriorating environment bequeathed to them by earlier generations” (Youth and the Environment). Since the youth comprises a large number in world population, they can make a difference if only all of them are involved. The risk for the youth in relation to environmental hazards is more than what can afflict the adults. Challenges bestowed upon the youth, such as access to clean, potable water and clean air, is still a problem needs to be resolved. Through John Muir’s influences, the “young blood” would be able to realize how important a clean and preserved environment is for them and for the generations next to them. The youth served as an extended vision for Muir as they are the one who would continue his legacy.
John Muir was a man who lived not just to exist but to serve a purpose. His advocacy, disseminated through his writings, was the aid to pursue his dream for the environment. One of his notable sayings includes his passion to save the trees, as it is “one of part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong.” The ongoing problems on the imbalance of the ecosystem were largely due to the blatant destruction of trees. He believed that the wild is “noble to strive for.” Though Muir left with his advocacy unfinished, the lives he touched, the people he encouraged to take action and the organizations that were formed through his inspiration would surely take hold of that legacy Muir started. With the active involvement of the government, public and private institutions that care about nature and the enthusiasm of the youth, the apocalyptic prediction of 2012 would just remain a legend.
- Carolina Wildlife Care. Carolina Wildlife Care. CWC, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <http://www.carolinawildlife.org/about.htm>.
- “Conservation Movement.” Save our Earth. itheme Techno Blogger, Web. 11 Nov. <http://earth2care.blogspot.com/2008/12/conservation-movement.html>.
- Dallas Ecological Foundation. “The Conservational Movement in the United States Late 19th/20th Century.” Slideshare. Slideshare, n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2010 <http://www.slideshare.net/DallasEcological/us-history-the-conservation-movement-in-the-united-states-2112692>.
- Introduction. “Youth and the Environment.” World Youth Report. n.p. 2003. 131. Print. “John Muir.” New World Encyclopedia. n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/John_Muir>.
- Perrottet, Tony. “John Muir’s Yosemite.” The Smithsonian Magazine. The Smithsonian Magazine, 2008. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/yosemite.html>.
- State of California. The Restoration Agency. The Hetch Hetchy Restoration Study. The Restoration Agency, 2006. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. <http://www.water.ca.gov/pubs/environment/hetch_hetchy_restoration_study/hetch_hetchy_restoration_study_report.pdf>.
- Wood, Harold W. Jr. “EarthKeeper Hero: John Muir.” EarthKeeper Heroes. The My Hero Project, Inc., 12 May 2005. Web. 12. Nov. 2010. <http://www.myhero.com/go/hero.asp?hero=j_muir>.
- Woolridge, Frosty. “John Muir’s Vision Sacrificed.” American Chronicle. American Chronicle, 05 June 2007. Web. 11 Novermber 2010. <http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/28932>.
- Worster, Donald. “John Muir and the Modern Passion for Nature.” Environmental History 10.1 (2005): 8+. Print.
- Zichela, Carl. “John Muir and Sierra Nevada–Creating an Icon of Conservation.” Journal of Sierra College National History Museum 1.1 (2008): n. pag. Web. 12 Nov.<http://www.sierracollege.edu/ejournals/jscnhm/v1n2/zichella.html>.
Offered for reference purposes only.