Leaders, Followers, and Inspiration

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Which sorts of heros do contemporary TreeHuggers cherish? Community Activist, Industrial Designer, President, Religious Leader, Corporate Executive, Naturalist, or Researcher? So many choices. So many burdening stereotypes to toss aside. Today's TreeHuggers get stereotyped as relics of a dying counter-culture and labled as lefty "activists". But who really do we admire these days? Who leads? And what will be the inspiration for new leaders?

The forces behind the emergence of environmental leaders of the past are fascinating: and a looking glass into what the future might command. Scan this short summary (from Sierra Club website) of the early life of John Muir. Pay particular attention to the bold text.

"John Muir was 11 when his family emigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin in 1849. He worked on the family farm until he was 22 and then enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, studying literature, botany and geology. A mechanical wizard, he dropped out of school and took a job in an Indianapolis carriage shop. The pivotal point in his life occurred in 1867. A file slipped from his grasp and lanced his right eye. His left eye went sympathetically blind. Desperate, Muir vowed to devote his life to the study of the inventions of God should his sight return. When it did, he launched unswervingly into his new vocation as a tramp and embarked on a 1,000-mile journey to the Gulf of Mexico. While recuperating from a bout with malarial fever, Muir read a travel brochure extolling the beauties of a place called Yosemite. In hopes his fever might be cooled with mountain winds and delicious crystal water, Muir sailed to San Francisco and hiked 200 miles to Yosemite.
After a 1903 Yosemite camping trip with Muir, Theodore Roosevelt devised a policy that created five national parks and 23 monuments and placed 148 million acres in national forests.Besides Yosemite, Muir was a motivating force in the establishment of Sequoia, King's Canyon, Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon national parks. In 1905, Muir, who by then had founded and was president of the Sierra Club, led the crusade that restored Yosemite Valley to federal control."
As apparent from his biographies, the nation's GrandDaddy TreeHugger, John Muir, loved mechanical design and construction. In the State Historial Society of Wisconsin remain the handmade products of this love, left behind when he departed the campus for his sojurns. These include an alarm clock bed that dumped him out on his feet every morning, and a study table that turned pages at a pre-determined rate, shuffling books before his eyes in the manner of a Juke Box. Both relied on a hand carved cukoo-clock-like wooden gear and counterweight system.

The legendary story of TR's camping expedition with Muir includes TR's supposedly wakening to declare that he felt refreshed enough from the trip to return to Washington DC and 'give Congress hell'. A quintessential outcome of friendship.

Perserverance in the face of adversity, a keen spiritual interest in nature, and ability to befriend and influence powerful figures, speak volumes about what it takes to make constructive change at a national scale.

Imagine if the current spiritual and personal advisors to President Bush were passionate about environmental issues?

Pick your hero's TreeHuggers. And if you want to be one, friends in high places matter.

by: John Laumer