In his enthusiastic explorations and fervent writing, Michael J. Yochim "was to Yellowstone what Muir was to Yosemite. . . . Other times, his writing is like that of Edward Abbey, full of passion for the natural world and anger at those who are abusing it," writes foreword contributor William R. Lowry. In 2013 Yochim was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). While fighting the disease, he wrote Requiem for America's Best Idea. The book establishes a unique parallel between Yochim's personal struggle with a terminal illness and the impact climate change is having on the national parks – the treasured wilderness that he loved and to which he dedicated his life.
Yochim explains how climate change is already impacting the vegetation, wildlife, and the natural conditions in Olympic, Grand Canyon, Glacier, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks. A poignant and thought-provoking work, Requiem for America's Best Idea investigates the interactions between people and nature and the world that can inspire and destroy them.
List of Maps
William R. Lowry
Chapter One. Olympic National Park
Chapter Two. Grand Canyon National Park
Chapter Three. Glacier National Park
Chapter Four. Yellowstone National Park
Chapter Five. Yosemite National Park
William R. Lowry
Michael J. Yochim (1966-2020) worked for twenty-two years at Yellowstone National Park as well as at Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Sequoia. His books include Yellowstone and the Snowmobile: Locking Horns over National Park Use, A Week in Yellowstone's Thorofare: A Journey Through the Remotest Place, Essential Yellowstone: A Landscape of Memory and Wonder, and Protecting Yellowstone: Science and the Politics of National Park Management (UNM Press).
"The book succeeds at drawing a parallel between his illness and the crisis facing our planet, but it's a somber success. Yochim's death from ALS just months prior to his memoir's publication underscores its urgent message: that the regenerative pleasures we draw from these parks may soon fall victim to our destructive impulses, cutting us off from these places, just as ALS eventually exiled Yochim from the trails and rivers he loved so dearly [...] The book could bring solace to those experiencing debilitating illness and convince some readers of the many connections between human and ecological health."
– André Naffis-Sahely, High Country News
"This is a crucial book. So many people have connected to the larger world through these five iconic landscapes that they are the perfect way to get them to care about the biggest crisis threatening our future. Climate change is so huge it's sometimes hard to see, but this fine book brings it very much down to earth – and some of the loveliest parts of that earth!"
– Bill McKibben, author Wandering Home: A Long Walk Across America's Most Hopeful Landscape
"To see through these pages into Mike Yochm's life is to bear witness to the flowering of a man's mind and heart in the bright light of wild nature. His portraits of some of America's great wildland parks fairly shimmer with the kind of attention mustered only by the intensely curious and the humble – someone willing always to look and listen deeply. Notably, while Yochim is writing from the agonizing doorstep of his own death, this is less a book about dying than a tale about what it feels like to be truly alive. Would that the scent and color of his love affair with nature, along with his unshakeable advocacy on its behalf, inspire generations to come."
– Gary Ferguson, author of The Eight Master Lessons of Nature: What Nature Teaches Us About Living Well in the World
"What an amazing book. Yochim manages to parallel the long-term destruction of our National Parks and wild lands – due to rising temperatures, receding glaciers, fire, and climate change in general – with his own physical decline due to the curse of ALS. I have been to the places he remembers in this book, and I must say he reconstructs their beauty in ways few of us could. This is truly a tragic work: the story of a man in his last moments alive holding onto a world of beauty that we are destroying."
– Kevin Mattson, Connor Study Professor of Contemporary History at Ohio University and author of We're Not Here to Entertain: Punk Rock, Ronald Reagan, and the Real Culture War of 1980s America
"Yochim drew his last breath while writing this manuscript, using eye-tracking technology because, long before, he'd lost the ability to type or speak. While the disease devastated his body, Yochim's memories of the parks sustained him [...] Requiem for America's Best Idea is an exceptionally touching, persuasive, and urgent plea for preserving these 'natural cathedrals' – places of wonder, renewal, and transcendence – for future generations."
– Foreword Reviews, starred review
"Yochim writes thoughtfully and with incredible nuance regarding the state of the parks throughout their history [...] The sense that author and reader alike take some solace in the fresh telling of past tales is palpable. Readers will be glad to read of Yochim in his prime, while he relishes the opportunity to illuminate his beloved parks [...] This book highlights the beauty of the natural world and its status as an invaluable commodity that all humans share. Recommended for all nature enthusiasts."
– Library Journal, starred review
"Imagine, for a moment, that you knew you were not long for the world but wanted to offer a gift back to society, a message that could positively affect the lives of future generations. For Michael Yochim, that's precisely what this book represents: a heartfelt wake-up call for millions of people who love America's national parks and are concerned about the deepening impacts of climate change. This book, which Yochim literally wrote up to the point of his last breath, is his way of getting us to care more about the crown-jewel nature preserves that belong to all of us – and, indeed, it will require all of us to come to their rescue."
– Todd Wilkinson, author of Last Stand: Ted Turner's Quest to Save a Troubled Planet
"One of the finest, most evocative books that I have ever read. It provides a panoramic view into the present state of life on planet Earth that is both profoundly beautiful and particularly alarming. It provides the realization that we are all borne by the flow of Nature through Paradise in peril."
– Jack Loeffler, author of Adventures with Ed: A Portrait of Abbey