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John Muir


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  • 1. John Muir Imaginary writings by John Muir based on events in his life.
  • 2. Naturalist, conservationist, and founder of the modern environmental movement and the Sierra Club – John Muir is known as all these things and more. Born in Scotland in 1838 to strict Calvinist parents, he moved to Portage, Wisconsin, in 1849. His father was considered harsh and strict, and, heavily influenced by his religious ideals, David Muir insisted that his children work on the family farm instead of attending school. The Muir children received no formal education, but John Muir insisted on teaching himself while he was a teenager. In 1861, at the age of 23, he broke away from his father and, with the help of a rich widow who realized his intellect, attended the University of Wisconsin. Six years later, while working at a shop, Muir suffered an injury which caused him to become temporarily blind in both eyes. After his tragic experience, he decided to follow his real passion botany and exploration of the outdoors – instead of wasting his life in a career chosen by his oppressive family. Thus began his many long and famous expeditions. He first walked the one thousand miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, then sailed to Cuba, Panama, and San Francisco. At the age of thirty, he viewed the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite for the first time, and from then on, launched his career as a writer and naturalist. Over the next half-century, he would help to protect the land he loved from the effects of the American industrial revolution of the late 1800s.
  • 3. Early Life 1852 - It is early morning, and I am taking advantage of a few precious minutes to myself to write. I have made a habit of rising at one o'clock in the morning so as to have time to myself, since my father insists that the whole family rise by six o’clock and immediately begin work. My life consists of little besides field work, and when I suggest that I and my siblings ought to attend school, my words are met with little but displeasure from my father. I have taken to educating myself as best as I can. I am determined to make more of my life than to be simply the son of a farmer. 1860 – I have entered the University of Wisconsin with the help of several generous friends who have recommended me, though I have had little formal education prior to now. I will attend the school for two and a half years, and I intend to study the natural sciences. I do not yet know where my studies will take me – although I am accustomed to design and machinery, and am told that I have a talent for these things (personally, my favorite of my devices is a bed which, upon rising time, will tip up and deposit the owner on the floor), I am much more interested in the natural world and life outside of the four walls which people usually find themselves surrounded by. I should like most of all to explore this
  • 4. 1867 – The past several years I have spent in Canada, avoiding this dreadful and cursed War. But I have again been in the States for a few months, during which time I have worked as a designer at an Indianapolis shop. A month ago, to my great dismay and disgust, my hand slipped while working with an awl, and the tool pierced my eye. I lost sight in both eyes, and for a month was unable to do much to help myself. However, I did a great deal of thinking while I was without this chief sense. One of my first conclusions has been that, despite being blessed with good health and mind, I, and doubtless many others, fail to truly open their eyes and see the beauties of the natural world around them. We fail to take advantage of our ability and the awe-inspiring surroundings we have been blessed with, and instead live our lives in a metaphorical darkness. Thus, I have resolved to no longer live without understanding and appreciation of the world around me. I wish to travel throughout this continent, to see how other people live and, more importantly, to see how nature works.
  • 5. Journey to the Gulf 1867 - I have just arrived at the Gulf of Mexico after walking one thousand miles from my home in Indianapolis. My original intent was to travel from here to the Amazon River, where I had hoped to explore a continent and ecosystem reportedly vastly different from our own. However, my plans have changed somewhat since, while on the latter part of my journey, I contracted a nasty strain of malaria, and have since been attempting to recuperate. When I am over this dreadful illness, I intend to take a steamer and travel to Cuba and Panama. After some time in each of these lands, I will cross the Isthmus, sail up the western coast of the United States, and dock in San Francisco.
  • 6. San Francisco 1868 - I have arrived in California. I landed at San Francisco, intending to stay only for a short time as the city is very large, very loud, and very industrial. I have set up my explorations in the Yosemite Valley and the Sierra Nevada. I think I have never seen, and never will see, any sight with as much power, grandeur and, overall, beauty, as this place. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring and enchanting part of Yosemite is the land between the rocks called El Capitan and Half-Dome. These are magnificent on their own, and in between them lies fairy-tale-like waterfalls and meadows which, at the proper times of year, are filled with flowers and plants very different from those in the eastern part of the country. The land has a sad history though. About two decades ago, when white people first began coming to this place in large numbers, and when San Francisco was first established with a large population, the Californian government paid settlers to solve Indian raids by killing many of them (the Indians). Now, the land is mostly left to the white people. I am now determined to stay in this place and carry out my work here. Muir on the Sierra Nevada: “It seemed to me the Sierra should be called not the Nevada, or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light...the most divinely beautiful of all the mountain chains I have ever seen."
  • 7. When Europeans first came to this continent, the land was practically untouched. Despite the presence of the Native Americans in this country for thousands of years prior to 1493, or the landing of settlers at Jamestown, these people did not possess the machinery or desire to pillage the land in the manner of our modern industrialists. Instead, they treasured the land, considering themselves the keepers of nature for future generations. When our people came to this continent, the attitude they brought with them was vastly different. For the most part, they viewed the land as a commodity to be used, not necessarily a treasure to be preserved for themselves as well as others. Now, in the land that is closest to my heart – California – we have the opportunity to either protect and preserve or exploit for the material interests of a few.
  • 8. Yosemite National Park It is with great joy and thankfulness that I am now able to announce the addition of one thousand and two hundred square miles of the Yosemite Valley to the public lands of the United States. This land is now to be known as Yosemite National Park. Such a park has been in my contemplation almost since I first came to California over twenty years ago. Now, thanks in part to the work of editor Robert Underwood Johnson, our nation is seeing this desire become a reality. The proposal has passed Congress, and the Valley is now protected from any destruction. Now, its only uses are for the encouragement of natural species and for the education of the public. The new Park is an American treasure and contains some of the most precious species and endangered species alive today. (continued)
  • 9. Yosemite
  • 10. I speak particularly of the redwood sequoias , sequoia gigantea, in the Yosemite Valley. These magnificent trees, standing hundreds of feet high and wider than the length of a small locomotive, are thousands of years old. They symbolize strength and might, endurance throughout the ages, and, to the many tourists and naturalists who view them, myself included, the handiwork of God. They are His tabernacle, and as such, ought to be treated with respect. Their mere age and beauty should command respect. However, these trees are treated as little more than commodities by industrialists and, in many cases, the government. Even now, so early in the history of California being a part of the Union, hundreds of these magnificent creatures have been massacred by lumber companies for profit. Despite the economic profits experienced by the sale of these trees, our country looses something far more valuable than mammon in their destruction – we loose an irreplaceable part of our heritage and status as a great nation. It is imperative that we protect these magnificent trees from the exploits of those interested only in personal gain.
  • 11. sequoias
  • 12. On the reservation of the Grand Canyon 1908 - Today we commemorate the addition of part of the Grand Canyon to the public lands of the United States of America. Aided by many, the desire to set aside a portion of America’s most magnificent land for the aesthetic pleasure of all has become a reality. Particularly , this cause has been championed by our president, Theodore Roosevelt. In these past several years, I have met with Mr. President several times, and we have come to a resolution concerning not only the Grand Canyon, but other lands in our country as well. Not only will land be set aside for the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park, but an act, named the Antiquities Act, has been born to ensure more proper management of our national treasures than has been previously experienced. 1908, note: Mr. President has again helped to preserve vital portions of America’s national legacy. These lands have been set aside by Mr. Roosevelt for preservation: Chaco Canyon, New Mexico; Devils Tower, Wyoming; El Morro, New Mexico; Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico; Jewel Cave, South Dakota; Montezuma Castle, Arizona; Muir Woods, California; Natural Bridges, Utah; Navajo, Arizona; Pinnacles, California; Tonto, Arizona; Petrified Forest, Arizona; Tumacacori, Arizona, and Lassen Peak and Cinder Cone, California. My greatest thanks and appreciation to this man who has so obviously aided the cause of the United States for the future.
  • 13. Images of the Grand Canyon
  • 14. Hetch Hetchy Valley 1909 - About twenty miles from the famous Yosemite Valley , and within the boundaries of the national park established a few short years ago, stands the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which, although smaller, certainly rivals Yosemite in natural beauty. The Valley is about three thousand feet deep, and through it runs the Tuolumne River, a powerful and magnificent body of water at about three thousand and eight hundred feet above the sea level. At one end of the Hetch Hetchy, on the River, is a canyon; on the other end are structures very much like El Capitan and Cathedral Rock in Yosemite Valley. Standing on the edge of the Canyon, one seems very small, as it is like all of the world is stretched out at one’s feet. Man is very small in comparison to the Lord’s wonders placed in this valley. It is hard to imagine that a human, powerless before the almighty God, could possibly bring harm to such a place. It seems like this Valley has been protected from destruction with the seal of the Lord.
  • 15. 1913– for the past seven years, some of the people of California have been insisting on the building of a dam in order to supply water and security to those in San Francisco. Although I strongly believed that restricting nature is not a good business method, I could understand the desire for this dam except for one thing. It would be located in the federally protected Hetch Hetchy Valley, land which, a few short years ago, the government and people agreed would be sacred from industrial attempts. It would be protected for the people and for future generations. I have just now received news that Congress, instead of using its full powers to protect this sacred land, has approved the dam. After seven years of resistance, there is little more that I can do to save the Hetch Hetchy. In a short space of time, the dam will be built, the beautiful and magnificent valley will be flooded, and all that will be left of it will be memories.
  • 16. Left – Hetch Hetchy Valley before the dam Right – Hetch Hetchy after the building of the dam
  • 17. Afterwards John Muir died in 1914 of pneumonia, right after the decision to build the Hetch Hetchy Dam. Twenty years earlier, he founded one of the greatest conservation societies of the modern day – the Sierra Club. He wrote extensively in private journals and newspapers, published many books, including a comprehensive guide to the national parks, and corresponded with several presidents. He carried on friendships with Theodore Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, he is known for founding the modern environmental movement and for the protection of many lands that would otherwise be destroyed by industry. He is appreciated for ceaseless championing of the safety of nature and the environment.
  • 18. One of the most famous photos of Muir at Yosemite Muir with Teddy Roosevelt at Yosemite National Park; the two camped there for three days, after which Roosevelt announced his commitment to the park and other conservation projects.
  • 19. A drawing by Muir himself of the Davidson Glacier in Alaska A drawing by Muir of a fall in the King’s River Canyon in Sierra Nevada
  • 20. Bibliography Perrottet, Tony. John Muir’s Yosemite. John Muir Exhibit. John Muir, a Biography. The Sierra Club John Muir. Sierra College Roosevelt and Muir in Yosemite. Muir, John. The Hetch Hetchy Valley. The Sierra Club Muir, John. Save the Redwoods. The Sierra Club Muir, John. John Muir Journals. University of the Pacific.