Sunday, April 21, 2013

Celebrating the Birthday of Naturalist John Muir

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John Muir is often called a "Scottish-American" because he was born in Scotland. But he was really an all-American hero, striding across the landscape in search of natural treasures and using his skill as a writer to help preserve the wilderness. He was key to founding our National Park System, especially the great western parks of Yellowstone and Yosemite. He founded the Sierra Club which carries on his great work to this day.

Happy Birthday, John Muir!!! How fitting that his birth is one day before Earth Day.

"The Battle for Conservation will go on endlessly. It is part of the universal warfare between right and wrong."
~ John Muir

From PBS
John Muir was one of the earliest advocates of the national park idea, and its most eloquent spokesman. Born in Dunbar, Scotland, he moved with his family to a Wisconsin farm in 1849. Muir's father, an itinerant Presbyterian minister, treated him harshly and insisted that he memorize the Bible. By age 11, he was able to recite three-quarters of the Old Testament by heart, and all of the New Testament.

Muir studied botany and geology at the University of Wisconsin and had a natural flair for inventions. In 1867, after recovering from a factory accident that left him temporarily blinded for several months, he cut short a promising career in industry to walk from Indiana to Florida, creating botanical sketches on his way. From there he sailed to California and then walked from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada – the "Range of Light" that would transform his life with his "unconditional surrender" to nature.

After working as a sheepherder in the high country for a season, Muir took a job in the Yosemite Valley in 1869, building a sawmill for James Mason Hutchings. In his free time, he roamed Yosemite, where he developed a scientific theory that the valley had been carved by glaciers. Muir felt a spiritual connection to nature; he believed that mankind is just one part of an interconnected natural world, not its master, and that God is revealed through nature.

. . . he traveled to Alaska's Glacier Bay and Washington's Mount Rainier. His writings brought national attention to two more places that would eventually become national parks.
Muir would also champion protection of the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. He was the public voice for setting aside the high country around Yosemite Valley as a national park in 1890, as well as for General Grant and Sequoia national parks.

. . . Muir was a founder and the first president of the Sierra Club; Muir Woods National Monument, a grove of redwoods north of San Francisco, is named in his honor.

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