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Science
JOHN OF THE MOUNTAINS 
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Following in the footsteps of John Muir 
Tuesday 2nd September 2003 11.00 - 11.30am

Howard Stableford travels to Yosemite National Park in California to follow in the footsteps of John Muir, virtually unknown in his native Scotland but a national hero in the US, who fought to protect the American wilderness.

half dome, yoesmite
Yosemite National Park's spectacular scenery inspired John Muir 
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John of the Mountains

John Muir (1838-1914) spent his life exploring, writing about and fighting for the great wilderness areas of America - even though he was a Scot. He was born in Dunbar into a fanatically Christian home where he was beaten if he made a mistake reciting the Bible from memory. One evening, when he was 11, his father told him he didn’t have to study that night because “we are going to America in the morning”. And so began the trail of adventure, drama and exploration of the New World that led to him being hailed as the founding father of the modern environmentalist movement.

John Muir was a man whose life was nothing short of inspirational. His writings are clear, vibrant and full of prophetic wisdom – he was one of the first to realise that all species are interconnected and “hitched together”. He developed a deep, spiritual connection with the land as he walked thousands of miles, from Alaska to Florida. He hated the blatant waste and foolishness of man and yearned for people to love and respect the wilderness. As his fame and following grew the Presidnet,  Theodore Roosevelt, wrote to him in 1903 to ask John to take him to the mountains. During this pivotal time John talked to him about the importance of the wilderness to the human spirit and the nation as a whole. As a result, by the time he left office in 1909 he had added 100,000 acres to the forest reserves, created 6 new National parks and 53 new wildlife refuges.

Following in his footsteps, Howard Stableford travels from John Muir’s childhood home in Dunbar to Yosemite National Park to discover a man whose spirit never faltered, who led Americans to treasure their land and who is regarded as a national hero. But John Muir had one failure - he could not stop the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite being dammed. Now environmentalists are hoping to have the dam removed and, as Howard discovers, John Muir’s words are still inspiring those campaigners today.
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