"Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away ... God has cared for these trees ... but he cannot save them from fools – only Uncle Sam can do that."
First published in 1901, Our National Parks is possibly the bestselling book of Muir's wilderness-discovery titles and was certainly the most influential published in his lifetime, with a strong focus on the preservation of forest reserves. With a strong political tone and shrewd, subtle manoeuvring, Muir uses Our National Parks to persuade his readership of the necessity of nature and national parks for human recreation and more importantly for health and wellbeing, as well as the – in his mind – obvious need for preservation of wild ecosystems. Cannily he counterbalances this with the acknowledgement of the need for timber and irrigation systems, in order that his message is taken seriously; Muir's passion is portrayed so vividly and flamboyantly that without his learned political and scientific reinforcement, he could be misconstrued as purely a radical and eccentric nonconformist. However, the two combined result in an engaging and convincing argument that these landscapes are our 'natural home', and 'fountains of life'.
As Muir expert Terry Gifford observes in the foreword, "Muir's tone can shift in Our National Parks from seductive persuasion, to charming details of creatures, flora and landscapes, to scientific information, to trail guide, to religious uplift, to a final political speech of startling ferocity". John Muir's strategic yet genuine and beautiful conservationist essays were a first at the time of publication, and are still highly applicable to our attitudes and lifestyles today in the twenty-first century.
1 The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
2 The Yellowstone National Park
3 The Yosemite National Park
4 The Forests of the Yosemite Park
5 The Wild Gardens of the Yosemite Park
6 Among the Animals of the Yosemite
7 Among the Birds of the Yosemite
8 The Fountains and Streams of the Yosemite National Park
9 The Sequoia and General Grant National Parks
10 The American Forests
Born in 1838, John Muir was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and ahead-of-his-time advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. Muir's works tell of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other exquisite wilderness areas. He founded The Sierra Club, and petitioned the US Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The 211-mile John Muir Trail – a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada – was named in his honour, as was the John Muir Way in Scotland, and many other places including a beach, college and glacier. Muir married Louisa Strentzel and they had two daughters together, living on a fruit orchard in California. Today he is referred to as the 'Father of the National Parks' and has a legacy as one of the most influential naturalists in America.