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Muir’s legacy persists

Let’s keep John Muir’s words in historical context. When in the mid- and late-19th century he encouraged freely using the forests he had no way of knowing that, just 100 years later, the population of his beloved California would nearly equal that of his entire nation, that timber harvesting would be by chain saws and huge machines, that clear cutting would be common, that only 15 percent of California’s native forests would remain, and that the timber industry would be lobbying to cut (even clear cut) much of the surviving 15 percent. Worldwide, John Muir was and still is recognized as having been one of the world’s foremost experts on wilderness. Among his five books on nature and the wilderness were three on California’s wilderness.



In 1903, Muir’s influence on President Theodore Roosevelt resulted in the establishment of 148 million acres for national parks. (This would anger many today.) Loggers and developers may not honor his knowledge, wisdom and natural sensitivity, but our nation has honored him by having set aside the beautiful Muir Woods National Park outside San Francisco.




On local politics; my thanks to three of those whose shared wisdom has helped guide my assessment of others:

— My mother who shared that, at only 18 and captain of the University of Pittsburgh’s debating team, she learned that mature people can disagree with each other, have intense debate over it, and still be dignified and respectful, even polite.

— My first philosophy professor who taught me that when people have exceeded their knowledge, they detour from verifiable facts on what’s being discussed, resorting instead to generalities, presumptions, undocumented and emotionally inflammatory statements and “argumentum ad hominem” (attacking the accuser) with name-calling, sarcasm and/or belittling.

— My Presbyterian minister brother who shared his discussion with a mentor preacher. The older man had shown his notes for the particularly stirring sermon he’d just delivered. Opposite one paragraph he’d written in the margin, “Point is weak here, raise your voice.”

If we really listen, people will reveal more by how they say what they say than by what they say.

Dick Denman

Rough and Ready


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