Lately I've been thinking a lot about John Muir. He's someone we all love and appreciate for his efforts which resulted in the preservation of large tracts of wilderness and created an awareness of man's impact on the environment. He was able to communicate in a way that helped us see the wonder and value of nature as he waxed lyrical about the mountains, streams, forests and the creatures that inhabit our wild lands. In fact, Rocky Mountain National Park where I live and work probably wouldn't exist without him.
Yet as I've thought about him I've realized that one of the reasons everyone loves him today is because he is dead. He certainly wasn't loved by all when he was alive, as he spent much of his time opposing the destructive tendencies of mankind. The logging and mining industries hated him as he hindered their ability to act without limit. I am certain that if he was alive today that he would be considered an enemy of the current United States administration. There is no doubt that he would refuse to hold his tongue about opening extremely delicate and untouched natural areas to mining and drilling, such as Grand Staircase Escalate and Bears Ears in Utah. He would be very vocal about the impact of revoking protections on our air, water, forests and endangered creatures. He would be irate about the proposal to raise funds for national parks by allowing mineral extraction in them and reducing their staffing and incomes. He would be as busy and active today opposing these types of destructive activities as he was during his own life.
How would you feel about him if he were here doing that today? Would you still love him as you did when he was simply a historical figure or would you see him as a trouble maker, a crazy environmentalist? If you think he might be opposed to some of your views you may want to ask yourself if you are standing on the right side of history. Fifty years from now will your grandchildren look back with gratefulness for the oil we pulled out of the earth or for what we've done to protect and save our wild places, our air, our water and the other creatures that live on this planet?
As I think about Muir I find myself reflecting on the question of how we should live? The default is to live in such a way that we don't make waves and stay on friendly terms with all. Yet John Muir challenges us to be one of those who raise their voices to preserve and care for this world of ours, to stand against our own destructive tendencies. Do we live for the short-term benefit of acceptance today or do we willingly face the criticism and anger of those who will oppose us knowing that we are standing for the long-term benefit for this earth and our descendants? I want to be one who doesn't cower to hatred, who's willing to take a stand for what is good, even if it isn't appreciated until long after I'm gone. I want to be on the side of John Muir in today's world. Will you join me?