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John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Aldo Leopold, three premier American environmentalists. It will also evaluate and explain my opinions regarding each individual. The wilderness is more than a concept; it is an enduring part of the American landscape that many environmentalists continue to try to protect. Three early proponents of the wilderness in America were Muir, Leopold, and Pinchot, but they had far different ideas about how and why to protect it. This film, The Wilderness Idea, looks at the men, their ideals, and the American wilderness, and how they all fought, in their own unique way, to keep some of America's most beautiful lands as an enduring symbol for her people to use and enjoy.
Many people may think that the idea of wilderness preservation is a relatively new idea, but it really began at the mid to late 19th century as cities and towns in America first began to expand, grow, and tear down wild areas. The film notes, "As wilderness shrank its popularity grew" (The Wilderness Idea). All of these early environmentalists wanted to protect at least some of the wilderness for posterity, but they all had different ideas about how it should be protected and why it should be protected, and often their ideas clashed with each other. From their backgrounds, it is easy to see why they had very different ideas about the wilderness and how to preserve it.
John Muir was the first President of the Sierra Club, and probably one of the best known and loved of the early environmentalists. Muir believed the wilderness was God's work, and should be left alone, and in fact, he equated God with life. It is easy to see why he fell in love with the beauty of the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite, and many of America's other wild places. He came from an austere and even violent family who allowed no adornment or even reading of anything but the Bible. The family could not even sing traditional Scottish folk songs. He grew up with a very stern and domineering father, and when he finally left and created his own world, he fell in love with some of the most beautiful places on earth. It is almost as if he was trying to make up for his dark and severe childhood by surrounding himself with as much beauty as he could.
Gifford Pinchot, on the other hand, was the first Chief of the American Forest Service. Pinchot believed man could manage the wilderness, and indeed man should manage the wilderness so it could be sustained for future generations. He said, "The earth belongs at right to all people" (The Wilderness Idea). Unlike Muir, who grew up in a poor, domineering household, Pinchot grew up in a wealthy family who had high political connections, traveled to Europe frequently, and owned several large mansions and estates. Pinchot saw the wilderness as something beautiful to be managed and dominated, while Muir saw it as something beautiful to be preserved above all else. In addition, Pinchot's father educated him well, and chose his career in forestry, while Muir used the wilderness to escape his father and his father's lifestyle. Muir was an inventor and thinker, while Pinchot was an educated but perhaps naive young man who was totally convinced that the only way to manage America's forests and wilderness was by government control, and sometimes very strict government control.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two men was how they looked at the modern world. Muir tended to doubt the entire modern world and its technology, while Pinchot was a very modern thinker, which he proved when he designed forestry management at the Biltmore Estate that allowed logging, but also allowed for renewal of the trees and the resource so logging could continue, rather than ultimately destroy the resource. Muir felt that human beings and nature could co-exist in a balance, while Pinchot ultimately felt the only way they could co-exist was for man to dominate, or manage them effectively. It is clear to see why the two men, who both loved the land, could not agree. Fundamentally, the foundations of their belief were far different, and what they wanted from the land was far different. Pinchot wanted to use the land…[continue]
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