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John Muir – 171 today

John Muir

John Muir

The John Muir BirthplaceTrust is holding a series of events to mark the anniversary of John Muir’s birth, 171 years ago today. Born in Dunbar in 1838, Muir found fame as a passionate defender of wild land in the United States, but remains relatively unknown in Scotland. Muir moved to America as a child and following an extremely strict upbringing, he permanently lost his sight in one eye in an industrial accident and was totally blind for a period of time. After this traumatic event Muir became passionately interested in the outdoors and began to campaign quietly for its preservation.

He went on to find fame as a botanist, geologist, mountaineer, ecologist and writer. During his explorations of the High Sierra and Alaska, Muir became aware of the threats to wild places and successfully campaigned for the establishment of National Parks to safeguard vast tracts of wild lands such as Yosemite Valley in California. In the course of his life, John Muir founded the Sierra Club and is widely regarded as a pioneer of the modern conservation movement.

Muir wrote several books, including The Story of my Boyhood and Youth and My First Summer in the High Sierra. His visionary accounts of his adventures in the High Sierra have inspired generations to explore and connect to wild places. Muir wrote eloquently of the spiritual benefits of spending time in natural world: “Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Towards the end of his life Muir passionately opposed the damming of Hetch Hetchy Valley which he found every bit as stunning as the Yosemite Valley. After years of national debate, Woodrow Wilson signed the bill to dam the valley in December 1913. Muir felt a great loss from the destruction of the valley and died aged 75 in a hospital in Los Angeles of pneumonia on the 24th of December, 1914.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken to everything in the universe.” John Muir (1838- 1914)

“John Muir’s lifelong work to share his love of the natural world has never been more relevant to us today,” commented Stuart Brooks, Chief Executive for the John Muir Trust. “His appreciation of the beauty and significance of wild places remains fundamental to the protection of our fragile and ever more beleaguered world.” Details of the anniversary events being held by the John Muir Birthplace Trust can be found at their website.

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