April 21 - TR & John Muir
April 21 - TR & John Muir
Today marks the birthday of the Wilderness Prophet John Muir. Theodore Roosevelt talks about his appreciation for this nature lover and writer.
"emphatically a good citizen"
John Muir was born on April 21, 1838, twenty years prior to Roosevelt. A long and lanky man, Muir seemed to hit the ground running toward trees. Born in Scotland, he emigrated with his family to America in 1849. PAying his own way, he studied at (though never graduated from) the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It was there that his love of nature truly germinated.
An instructor named Griswold found Muir on the campus, and immediately began instructing him, using the locust tree near where they stood.
[Griswold] "Muir do you know what family this tree belongs to?"
"No," I said, "I don t know anything about botany."
"Well no matter," said he, "what is it like?"
"It's like a pea flower," I replied.
"That's right. You re right," he said, "it belongs to the Pea Family."
"But how can that be," I objected, "when the pea is a weak clinging straggling herb and the locust a big thorny hardwood tree?"
"Yes, that is true," he replied, "as to the difference in size but it is also true that in all their essential characters they are alike and therefore they must belong to one and the same family...Now taste the locust leaf."
I did so and found that it tasted like the leaf of the pea...This fine lesson charmed me and sent me flying to the woods and meadows in wild enthusiasm."
John Muir, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth
While it took a few twists and turns, Muir realized his passion was botany, and should be his pursuit. He traversed throughout the country, with particular interest in the Yosemite.
More of a preservationist than a conservationist, he strove to keep protected lands fully protected, while Roosevelt saw the necessity of utilizing resources, including public lands, while still protecting the overall integrity of them. These two men disagreed in principle, but found common ground, quite literally, in the Yosemite. Roosevelt and Muir camped for three days in 1903 during an inspection tour of that national park, and TR was inspired to keep the declared park land from shrinking, as well as improve federal management of the land.
Muir was devoted to declaring the beauty of the land, and the imperative to protect it. With 12 books and hundreds of articles, and the founding of the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Prophet shared his gospel of preservation with an increasingly receptive public. And in Theodore Roosevelt, he found a strong ally.
Outlook, January 16, 1915.
Our greatest nature lover and nature writer, the man who has done most in securing for the American people the incalculable benefit of appreciation of wild nature in his own land, is John Burroughs. Second only to John Burroughs, and in some respects ahead even of John Burroughs, was John Muir. Ordinarily, the man who loves the woods and mountains, the trees, the flowers, and the wild things, has in him some indefinable quality of charm, which appeals even to those sons of civilization who care for little outside of paved streets and brick walls. John Muir was a fine illustration of this rule.