The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit. There could be no greater misconception of its meaning than to believe it to be concerned only with endangered wildlife, human-made ugliness, and pollution. These are part of it, but, more importantly, the crisis is concerned with the kind of creatures we are and what we must become in order to survive.

– Lynton K. Caldwell

From the Introduction to My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir:

In 1904, Muir was planning to take an extended trip trhough Asia and Europe, when he receieved word that President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to meet with him. The impulsive thirty-one-year-old who wrote the notes for this book in 1869 would never have been invited to meet the president. The legendary sixty-five-year-old conservationist who did receive that honor was past the peak of his amazing physical prowess, yet he was still more fit than Roosevelt, who had ridden into office on a reputation of great physical toughness. Muir’s first inclination was to say no to the president, as he had to other famous people in his younger years in order to follow his own star into the mountains. In this case, however, Roosevelt suggest that the two of them sneak off on foot and rough it for a few days somewhere in Yosemite.

Three things helped Muir make us his mind. First, Yosemite Valley was not then a national park, although parkland surrounded it on all sides. The valley had been held out to be managed by the State of California, with far less protection and more development than its natural splendor warranted. Second, forests were being cut all over California, and Muir saw a chance “to do some forest good.” But the final straw that convinced him to postpone his overseas journey was a personal message from the president: “I do not want anyone with me but you, and I want to drop politics absolutely for four days and be out in the open with you.”

Muir agreed to come, but he did not drop politics. After the Rough Rider president and the old mountaineer discovered they were kindred spirits, Muir began preaching forest conservation. Roosevelt emerged from the natural cathedral of tall trees with a directive to the Department of the Interior to protect that forests all the way from Yosemite to Mount Shasta, hundreds of miles to the north. He also told Muir that he would sign a bill including Yosemite Valley in the national park….

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~ by justinhong on April 20, 2009.

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