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Muir Set the Pattern for Those Who Followed

by Robert Michael Pyle

John Muir set the pattern for those who followed - Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, E.O. Wilson, and all their lot - those who have possessed both the knowledge of the natural world and the refined love for its elements that, together, turned their consciences toward selfless activism on behalf of ecological reform. For it wasn't as much his friendship with presidents, his rhapsodic language, or his reputation as the Sage of the Sierra that saved Yosemite and inspired the conservation of biodiversity ever after. It was more the fact that John Muir truly was a rigorous scientific observer and a pioneering, original student of the landscape: its geology and glacial history, its plant communities, its ecological wholeness. Muir combined a truly Thoreauvian attention to his surroundings with the robust physicality of Teddy Roosevelt and the inclusiveness of Gilbert white, the father of Natural History; and he blended them all with a literary exuberance that caught the imagination of readers and politicians alike. John Muir also had a broad worldview, concern and curiosity for the whole globe spinning in his mind.

How proper a model Muir was, and still is, for anyone who loves nature. For he did love, more than most have any idea how to do. He loved his family, friends, and all life. He loved the colors on the sea and sky, and the gift of sight he almost lost. He especially loved big round things: the clouds, the trees, the granite domes - the world itself.

Excerpted from pp. xvii - xxiii of John Muir's Last Journey: South to the Amazon and East to Africa, Unpublished Journals and Selected Correspondence, by John Muir. Michael P. Branch, ed. Copyright © 2001 by Island Press. Posted to this website by permission of Island Press/Shearwater Books. All rights reserved.

The Life and Contributions of John Muir

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