You are currently viewing JOHN MUIR: AN ENVIRONMENTAL HERO




Early Life:

John Muir was a renowned naturalist born on April 21, 1838. He was also known as “John of the Mountains” to some and “Father of the National Parks” to others. Apart from being a naturalist, he was also a prominent environmental philosopher, botanist, zoologist, and author. He was born in Scotland but he lived most of his life in the United States of America and also died there.

Muir moved to a farm near Portage, Wisconsin from Scotland in 1849 along with his family. In 1860, he advanced to Madison where he took admission to the University of Wisconsin. After completing his studies at the University of Wisconsin, he left Madison and started working on mechanical inventions. In 1867, an unfortunate incident cost him an eye and he was forced to abandon his career in the mechanical field. He then started taking interest in nature.

Early interest in nature

The United States is a land of the wild and diverse natural environments where you can find everything from the desert to the sea.

Muir decided to devote his life to nature. He took a journal (named “A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf”) and walked from the Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1868, he visited the Yosemite Valley located in California. From there, he travelled to many areas such as Washington, Nevada, Utah, etc. His interest in glaciers and forests kept him motivated to go to different places around the US.

Numerous articles were published in 1874 and 1875 in the magazine Overland Monthly. These articles highlighted how Muir ascribed the picturesque Yosemite formations to glacial erosion. He was the first person to give a rightful explanation regarding Yosemite formations and his theory is now generally accepted around the world.

How He Helped Found Yosemite Valley

John Muir was one of the main figures who were responsible for establishing and preserving the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park. He was considered an inspiration due to his work of preserving wilderness areas. He co-founded Sierra Club, a well-known American conservation organization.

Many historians and philosophers believe Muir was the saint of healthy American environmental activity. Muir directed and shaped the environmental activities in such a way that Americans understood the importance of building relationships with the natural world.

While the US government has been involved in the development of some of the most important natural areas, it has also been involved in the destruction of others.

Moreover, Muir was also known for being a good ecological thinker and political spokesman. His sayings and words worked as a guide for people in saving the environment. Muir’s letters, articles, essays, and books describing his life and adventures in nature have been read by millions of people.

Muir’s contributions in Wilderness areas

It’s easy to take the environment for granted, to assume that we’re doing it right and that the world will keep on running as we know it. This is often far from the case, as those of us who live in cities, towns and suburbs know well.

The environment and the United States are two things that we should be very familiar with. Many people think that the environment is something that we should always be saving and trying to preserve. It is very important that we do this and we should be trying to save as much as we can, as it will help future generations. But we need to do more than that. We need to be looking at how we use things and make sure that we use them the way that they should be.

Muir’s contributions to the preservation and conservation of America’s wilderness have always been commendable

He believed that wilderness areas should be protected federally as national parks have provided a golden opportunity to the citizens of the U.S. to encourage and value America’s landscapes. This is because these landscapes exist naturally without any presence of human industrial influence. Muir’s ideas, concepts, and writings about environmental protection continue to serve as an inspiration and originality for naturalists, environmental philosophers, and conservationists all around the world.

Books include The Mountains of California(1894), Our National Parks (1901), and The Yosemite (1912), and the books published posthumously, include Travels in Alaska (1915), A Thousand-Mile Walk(1916), and The Cruise of the Corwin: Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 in Search of De Long and the Jeannette(1917), still remain significant works in the literature on America’s natural history.

How John Muir was an environmental hero?

John Muir fought a lot for a healthy environment. In 1876, he persuaded the federal government to develop and introduce a policy related to forest conservation. Through publishing numerous articles in renowned magazines and newspapers such as The Century Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, he tried and encouraged the preservation of land.

Muir’s debate over forest protection was initially different from the idea of Gifford Pinchot, a pioneer of U.S. forestry and conservation. Gifford believed that there should be sustainable use of resources within forests while Muir believed that national parks and forests should be preserved which means the resources must be discarded off-limits to industrial interests.

In 1890, Sequoia and Yosemite parks were established and were considered as a sign of victory for environmental safety and protection but the debate between Gifford’s theory and Muir’s theory was not over.

Moreover, Muir founded Sierra Club, an organization that was devoted to taking care of the environment, in 1982. He was appointed as the first president of the company and remained the president until his death in 1914. The Sierra Club Bulletin, a publication for the organization’s members, gave an important outlet for Muir, allowing him to raise environmental awareness through his writing.

How He Litigated against the Government

Muir’s contributions and writings proved to be effective; they helped in not only changing the public opinion but also the congress opinion. In 1897, Grover Cleveland (U.S. President), ordered to preserve 13 national forests from exploitation. The public and congressional opinions were both in favour of preserving national forests.

Furthermore, Muir was successful in influencing the conservation program that was introduced by President, Theodore Roosevelt. The president even went on a camping trip with Muir to the Yosemite region.

To honour the contributions of Muir, the government established Muir Woods National Monument in California in 1908, and in 1964, they converted Muir’s home to a national historic site. In addition, Muir’s work also helped in establishing two major parks; the Mount Rainier National Park in 1899 in Washington and Grand Canyon National Park in 1919 in Arizona.

Muir had a great benefaction; he progressed in shaping the world and paved his own path in shaping the world of “Environmentalism”. John Muir’s admirable contributions in preserving and conserving the environment benefitted the United States in various ways but the most important contribution was his lessons and teachings on the vital traits of the science of ecology. It was the main thing that actually impacted future scientists, naturalists, and environmentalists.

Muir was not a man who just travelled the world for the purpose of seeing landscapes and forests. His aim was to ultimately preserve the landscapes and forests so that the coming generation could study them, make the best use of them, and get inspired.

The editor of Century Magazine, Robert Underwood Johnson (published many articles of Muir), stated about Muir’s legacy:

“The world will look back to the time we live in and remember the voice of one crying in the wilderness and bless the name of John Muir. … He sung the glory of nature like another Psalmist, and, as a true artist, was unashamed of his emotions. His countrymen owe him gratitude as the pioneer of our system of national parks. … Muir’s writings and enthusiasm were the chief forces that inspired the movement. All the other torches were lighted from his”.

John Muir is a hero for us; he intrinsically helped in promoting Environmental Studies, encouraged those who were interested in preserving nature during his time, motivated those who were scared of the wilderness, and undoubtedly, inspired, and continue to inspire, many environmentalists, scientists, naturalists, researchers, engineers to initiate ways that can create a healthy environment.

All in all, Muir helped the U.S. in establishing national parks, publicize conservation, and glamorize the concept of wilderness.

The United States has long been known as a country that leads the world in environmental awareness. The nation was one of the first to pass laws against pollution and has consistently been a leader in energy use and conservation.

John Muir died of pneumonia at the age of 76 at California Hospital in Los Angeles on 24th December 1914.

Final Thoughts:

In summary, John Muir’s life and work still resonate today. His legacy has also helped the creation of the national park system and the creation of the Sierra Club. His next-to-last journey summed up his passionate environmentalism.

The most important thing that most researchers agree on is that the environment is worth saving. After all, it’s the setting for most of our lives, and has helped shape us into the people we are today.

Leave a Reply