John Muir, the Original Environmentalist

More

On Earth Day 2011, a look back at 6 Atlantic essays by the father of American environmentalism

3b04619redit.jpg
Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ's time—and long before that—God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools,—only Uncle Sam can do that.
—John Muir

In 1970, the first Earth Day capitalized on America's growing political consciousness. As America protested the Vietnam War, environmentalism channeled those sentiments, creating a movement with similar passion directed toward changing behaviors and attitudes to reduce harm to the earth.

70 years prior to that, John Muir penned six essays in The Atlantic, expressing both his love and concern for the environment. An early advocate of preservation, Muir petitioned Congress for the national park bill, which passed in 1899 and established both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.

Below we've excerpted passages from the early environmentalist's essays. On the pages of The Atlantic, Muir eloquently captured America's natural beauty and the need to preserve it.

Image: Library of Congress

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca Greenfield is a writer based in Brooklyn. She was formerly on staff at The Atlantic Wire.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Where the Wildest Things Are

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In