John Muir: Nature’s Visionary

Gretel Ehrlich’s John Muir: Nature’s Visionary is a fascinating account of a premiere environmentalist in America’s history.  This biography traced Muir’s life from his birth and upbringing in Scotland, conflicts with his family, and decision to venture out on his own in the wilderness.  This environmentalist’s adventures took him on a thousand-mile walk to the Gulf of Mexico, having experiences in the Sierra Nevada, and on explorations in Alaska.

Ehrlich showed that Muir endured childhood beatings, near death experiences, bouts of malaria, and near starvation during his life.  Most of these trials came in the wildness where he often slept in the snow, was without a coat, and had worked at odd jobs.  But Muir’s love of nature propelled him in the wildness to be with trees like the giant sequoias, mountains, lakes, valleys, rocks, and the flora and fauna of these regions.  He also made notes, sketched images, and observed glaciers.

Muir’s vision eventually bore fruit, and because of his activism on October 1, 1890, a bill in the United States senate made Yosemite a national park.  More success followed when national parks were set aside for 55 wildlife preserves and 150 national forests.  His twilight years saw him as an accomplished writer, an advocate for parks, and undertaking travels to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and Australia.

Muir lived in the Martinez ranch with his wife Louie and daughters.  Eventually, he suffered setbacks in his evangelistic mission of preserving more open spaces when big business won, and the waterway Hetch Hetchy was dammed.  At an older age he was suffering from a respiratory illness that got worse and killed him.

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