John Muir is regarded as the ‘father of America’s national parks’ and is a towering figure in the history of that country’s involvement with ecology, wilderness and all things natural. Born into a harsh disciplinarian home in Dunbar, Scotland (not the US as often thought), as a young boy he would often escape the grit of urban reality to revel in the wildlife of the area. When his father suddenly uprooted the family and moved to the United States, the oppression he associated with his childhood continued – but at the same time he had the opportunity to connect in a very important and life-changing way with the natural world of America. Despite the difficulty of his formative years, Muir grew up to be a man of great joy – he was an inventor and then an explorer, he found his haven in the mountains of Sierra Nevada. Following an accident that left him temporarily blind, an expedition across a huge swathe of wild lands provided the opportunity to witness first hand the real wild lands, and germinated the seed of the idea of protecting the same — an idea that would become today’s national parks!
He was a fascinating character: on the one hand a recluse, who sought solitude in nature; and on the other a passionate activist, determined to save the places he loved. A strong believer in both God and the essential goodness of humanity, he was the founder and first president of the Sierra Club, as well as being the inspiration of the John Muir Trust, and writer of more than a dozen volumes on natural history. This wonderful memoir pays tribute to a giant of ecology and is essential reading for lovers of natural history and its history.
John Muir: the Scotsman who saved America’s wild places. Mary Colwell. Lion Hudson Ltd. Paperback, pp288. ISBN: 978-0-7459-5666-4. £9.99