John Muir: the power of memory


A short piece in the L.A. Times on Monday the 11th got past me until today.

A giant sequoia tree is dying in Martinez, California. It was planted in 1883 by John Muir, the father of the environmental conservation movement in the United States. Muir started the Sierra Club and wrote extensively about his explorations of nature, especially in Yosemite. He inspired Theodore Roosevelt to create the National Park system. For much of his life, Muir lived in the old growth forests of the Sierra Nevada, trekking through the shadows of the huge redwoods, a bit of an eccentric visionary.

Muir brought this sequoia back from one of his journeys as a seedling and planted it on his homestead in Martinez, now the John Muir National Historic Site. The 70-foot tall redwood is today dying from an airborne fungal infection, but a fascinating non-profit in Copemish, Michigan aptly named Archangel has successfully cloned the tree and will send a new, genetically identical seedling back to the Muir site for planting.

Archangel’s mission is to propagate the world’s most important old growth trees before they are gone and to reforest the earth with their offspring. According to the co-founder of Archangel, David Milarch, there will be many more clones available soon for planting around the country.

Now, all this may seem a bit quaint in a world of ongoing economic crisis, senseless war, and global environmental destruction, but I see it as one of the more hopeful signs in my lifetime. First the National Park Service—a governmental agency for God’s sake—revealed itself to be smart and sensitive in preserving the memory of John Muir and his environmental activism. And, more importantly, Archangel’s mission might be one of the most revolutionary movements in our sordid history of stewardship to the Earth’s environment.

I encourage you to visit Archangel’s website and read up on them. Re-planting forests is a radical act of environmental activism that, if successful, could at least begin to mitigate the damage our corporate greedheads have done to the planet. And, as a happy consequence, it may shed light into all our hearts through the efforts of one lonely man whose footsteps among the giant sequoias have left a monument to their preservation.


4 thoughts on “John Muir: the power of memory

  1. Great news for historians, and everyone else! The John Muir home in Martinez,CA is beautiful, I only live 10 miles from it. My partner was the County Clerk Recorder for Contra Costa county. When Steve took the job, there was a large pile of paper,etc on a wood pallet. Steve asked what it was, they replied it was to be burned…Steve stopped that, and went thru the pile, in it he found the marriage certficate for John Muir and other important documents, original land grants during the Indian and Spanish times…It is important to preserve the past…without it,we are a lost human race.

  2. I applaud one mans vision to create a National Park supported with the help of President Roosevelt. Now generations can see the beauty of all species of plants and trees. It reminds me of the story of the Anne Frank chestnut tree that was eventually destroyed by a disease and high winds. It is reported that a new side shoot is growing. Eleven saplings from the tree are being distributed in the United States to museums, schools, parks and Holocaust remembrance centers through a project led by The Anne Frank Center USA. The first sapling will be planted in April 2013 at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Other saplings are being sent to a New York City park honoring 9-11 victims, a Little Rock, Arkansas school that was the center of a desegregation battle and sites in Massachusetts, California, Idaho, Michigan and Washington, D.C. Rainforests are being destroyed because the value of rainforest land is perceived as only the value of its timber by short-sighted governments, multi-national logging companies, and land owners. Experts agree that by leaving the rainforests intact and harvesting it’s many nuts, fruits, oil-producing plants, and medicinal plants, the rainforest has more economic value than if they were cut down to make grazing land for cattle or for timber. The Amazon Rainforest has been described as the “Lungs of our Planet” because it provides the essential environmental world service of continuously recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen. More than 20 percent of the world oxygen is produced in the Amazon Rainforest. Thank goodness that there are groups like the Archangels!

  3. Mr. David M. The Happy, Georgist HERE, Mamie: I din’t know you liked John Muir?! Why he, & Mr. Henry George MUST have had at least A passing aquaintence with each other! Maybe yu & I can research that on-line; & ALL your other fans too. I AM MOST Cordially, Your Henry George Friend IN Peace, David M.


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