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John Muir: OG (nature) Influencer

A short introduction to John Muir, the Scottish-American that everyone can learn from – taking on a whole new meaning of #influencer in today’s technology fuelled society! Author, philosopher, writer and naturalist – Muir was a well respected pioneer of environmentalism during the late 18th, early 19th Century.

As an advocate of nature and it's connection to humans, many of Muir's quotes closely relate to our core values here at Wild City. We think it's SO interesting to read about the magic of nature through the mind of John Muir, as he somehow manages to perfectly capture the strength and depth of emotion that nature has upon us as human beings. Without specifically referencing biophilia*, as it wasn't a known term at that time (there will be more on this in a separate blog post!), his views encompass the same ideology which we find hugely important as people and as a business. The way that he describes the feeling of being within nature reflects the feeling that we would like to encourage in others through our workshops. Now this is probably... definitely an over ambitious statement, because it’s more of a ‘need to be there’ kind of thing, but that feeling is something that everyone should have the opportunity to experience, and if we can influence that then we are doing our job!

* Biophilia (noun): (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson) an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world. (Oxford Languages)


John Muir was an explorer, mountaineer, conservationist, botanist, amateur geologist and writer of distinction. He developed a passion for wild places growing up in the coastal town of Dunbar, east of Edinburgh. At age 10, he emigrated to the United States with his family. Muir embraced all nature from mosquitoes to mountain ranges, recognising that everything is connected. His passion for wild places led to a life-long quest to protect them. Muir’s writings helped people understand the importance of wildness. His activism saved Yosemite Valley in California and helped create the world’s first national park system. (Discover John Muir, 2020)

Coastal Redwoods, the tallest of all living things.

Source: Bethia Bridges (Wild City Portsmouth)

We visited Muir Woods National Monument, California in September 2019. Named after John Muir due to his environmental campaigns in establishing the United States' National Park system, this vast forest is considered to be one of the most popular tourist attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area. Filled with manmade trail paths to protect the root system, it has a diverse ecosystem that houses a huge variety of plants, trees and animal species, often drenched in essential marine fog (Oh hey Karl!**). At the time of our visit they were undergoing construction work to restore and enhance the coho salmon habitat - this meant that it was particularly quiet so we were free to explore without crowds.

**All that is sunny does not glitter, not all those in the fog are lost. (Twitter: @ KarlTheFog)

**The name Karl is a reference to the 2003 film "Big Fish." The creator told SF Weekly that Karl was the giant everyone was afraid of because they thought he would kill or eat them, when in fact he was just hungry and lonely. (KQED, 2018)

Walking through the forest you feel a sense of awe that challenges your perspective in a powerful yet humbling way. This is enhanced by the sheer magnitude of the trees and the awareness that these trees existed for hundreds of years before you and will continue to exist for hundreds of years after you. This perceived immortality of nature forces you to appreciate the feeling of insignificance in its presence, creating a lasting impact that would be difficult to replicate.

Source: Bethia Bridges (Wild City Portsmouth)

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” (Steinbeck, 2002)

This quote provides an interesting perspective on redwoods, which feels like an accurate representation of our experience walking through Muir Woods. The images above are merely examples from our trip, but it is impossible to capture the immensity and feeling that this forest emits through direct observation. Some of these tree are over 1500 years old, some have been visibly struck by lightning and survived severe fire damage, some are hollow, and some twist upwards fighting for sunlight at the canopy, hundreds of feet from the ground. Being in the presence of these trees felt quite surreal and made us gain a sense of perspective that is impossible to replicate without the vast presence of nature itself. Feeling small and insignificant is rarely seen as a positive in day to day situations, but in this case, it was. This was partly why we found it so inspiring, but also by absorbing the sensory elements such as the light, shadow, colour and sound of silence. This provided us with a physical viewpoint that encouraged us to consider how nature can create such powerful positive emotions in humans.

John Muir is a fascinating example of a historical figure, known for his sense of adventure and ‘biocentric perspective of the world’ (Wilkins, 1996). The more we research, the more we resonate with his ideologies and form questions grown from our curiosity. How you could begin to describe that feeling of awe in nature, and if any person stepped away from a materialistic, technology focused or conformist cultural lifestyle, would they also experience the same connections that Muir felt? He is quoted to have said about himself, ‘I could have become a millionaire, but chose instead to become a tramp’ (Why John Muir? | John Muir Way, n.d.) which we think is an interesting way of highlighting the negativity within materialistic society and how he chose to turn that down by using nature as his escape. What do you think?

We can all learn something from Muir's viewpoints, what inspires you the most? Let us know - we like inquisitive minds here at Wild City and would love to hear your thoughts!

Visual Response:

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark - John Muir (Wolfe, 2003)

Source: Bethia Bridges (Wild City Portsmouth)


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