John Muir and the ice that started a fire How a visionary and the glaciers of Alaska changed America

Kim Heacox

Book - 2014

"John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire takes two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska, and combines them into a brisk and engaging biography.John Muir was a fascinating man who was many things: inventor, scientist, revolutionary, druid (a modern day Celtic priest), husband, son, father and friend, and a shining son of the Scottish Enlightenment -- both in temperament and intellect. Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak, bring us a story t...hat evolves as Muir's life did, from one of outdoor adventure into one of ecological guardianship. Muir went from impassioned author to leading activist. He would popularize glaciers unlike anybody else, and be to glaciers what Jacques Cousteau would be to the oceans and Carl Sagan to the stars The book also offers an environmental caveat on global climate change and the glaciers' retreat alongside a beacon of hope: Muir shows us how one person changed America, helped it embrace its wilderness, and in turn, gave us a better world.In 2005, Californians had to choose a design for its commemorative quarter. Hundreds of submissions - the iconic Hollywood sign above Hollywood Hills, the 1849 Gold Rush, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. - fell away until one remained: an image of John Muir. 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Muir's death. Muir's legacy is that he reordered our priorities and contributed to a new scientific revolution that was picked up a generation later by Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, and is championed today by influential writers like E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond. Heacox takes us into how Muir changed our world, advanced the science of glaciology and popularized geology. How he got people out there. How he gave America a new vision of Alaska, and of itself. "--

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Subjects
Published
Guildford, Connecticut : Lyons Press, An Imprint of Globe Pequot Press [2014]
Language
English
Physical Description
xvii, 245 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 231-235) and index.
ISBN
9780762792429
0762792426
Main Author
Kim Heacox (-)
  • Prologue : The gospel of glaciers
  • Part One: 1879-1880. The heaven right here ; A skookum-house of ice ; It is not a sin to go home ; We must risk our lives in order to save them
  • Part Two: 1888-1898. Old friends, new friends ; No lowland grippe microbe ; Moneyfest destiny ; That masterful grasp of material things
  • Part Three: 1899-1906. Author and student of glaciers ; Bully
  • Part Four: 1906-1980. A temple drowned ; In perpetuity
  • Epilogue : 2012-1014. Blue ice and brown bears.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Alaska writer Heacox (The Only Kayak, 2005) delves deeply here into the impact his state's glacial beauty had upon wilderness advocate John Muir. With a deft touch, the narrative wanders with ease from natural history, to biography, to travelogue and an exploration of how Muir's adventures in Alaska infused his later literary and conservation accomplishments. Muir is hardly an unknown figure, but Heacox finds much in his Alaska experiences worthy of further examination. The state's conflicted past with its native inhabitants comes alive as the author recounts Muir's interactions with Tlingit guides, determined men of God, desperate gold miners, and the denizens of the much-lauded 1899 Harriman Expedition. Heacox presents Muir at his most restless, curious best, heavily engaged in the environmental politics of California while never leaving far behind his northern glacial adventures. There are a dozen different aspects of this study that will strike deep chords with readers, most notably the climate implications revealed by glacial movements that Muir recorded. Long a highly regarded member of Alaska's literary establishment, Heacox is at the top of his game here. The science is fascinating, the prose is poetic, and the story weaves a long-lasting geographic spell. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

This is a fascinating biography of John Muir, the "father of America's environmental movement."  The author uses Muir's many trips to Alaska, exploring and studying the glaciers, to form the framework for his life story.  Muir was already enchanted with nature, but glaciers ignited his passion.  Glacier Bay was a focus of his early efforts to save nature from exploitation.  Readers get to meet the man with all his enthusiasms and foibles, a man who needed wild untrammeled nature as much as he needed air.  This biography feels more personal than Donald Worster's  A Passion for Nature (CH, Mar'09, 46-3834) and other biographies.  It captures the romance and passion of Muir's life.  The author's writing style is poetic, making the book a joy to read.  Heacox is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a conservationist.  He has authored many books and essays about Alaska, the polar regions, and wilderness.  This excellent biography can stand alone or serve as a companion to Muir's Travels in Alaska (1915).  The extensive bibliography and 16 pages of endnotes enhance its usefulness for students.  Valuable for both pleasure reading and research. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic and general environmental studies collections. --B. Galbraith, Washington State University Betty Galbraith Washington State University http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/CHOICE.185162 Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Heacox (The Only Kayak) succeeds in producing a wonderfully personal biography of Muir, while also discussing a larger planetary issue that many know about only in passing. Heacox's fascinating treatment of Muir's life recounts his wilderness adventures, details the quirks and contradictions of his personality, and contextualizes his place in the infancy of the conservation movement. A cofounder of the Sierra Club, Muir was "a self-taught naturalist, glaciologist, ecologist"; he "popularized geology," is credited with birthing the movement to preserve nature instead of viewing it merely as an endless source of raw materials, and his efforts helped save our first national park, Yosemite. Had he been born even a little earlier or a little later, America today may not have many of its most treasured pristine environments. While we are fortunate for Muir's efforts, Heacox takes it a step further and analogizes his contributions to those of contemporary efforts to combat global climate change. The book is an engaging and informative look at Muir and his life's work, as well as a timely call to action that poses difficult questions to the reader and the philosophies that underpin modern life. Illus. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire takes two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska, and combines them into a brisk and engaging biography.John Muir was a fascinating man who was many things: inventor, scientist, revolutionary, druid (a modern day Celtic priest), husband, son, father and friend, and a shining son of the Scottish Enlightenment -- both in temperament and intellect. Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak, bring us a story that evolves as Muir's life did, from one of outdoor adventure into one of ecological guardianship. Muir went from impassioned author to leading activist. He would popularize glaciers unlike anybody else, and be to glaciers what Jacques Cousteau would be to the oceans and Carl Sagan to the stars The book also offers an environmental caveat on global climate change and the glaciers' retreat alongside a beacon of hope: Muir shows us how one person changed America, helped it embrace its wilderness, and in turn, gave us abetter world.In 2005, Californians had to choose a design for its commemorative quarter. Hundreds of submissions - the iconic Hollywood sign above Hollywood Hills, the 1849 Gold Rush, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. - fell away until one remained: an image of John Muir. 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Muir's death. Muir's legacy is that he reordered our priorities and contributed to a new scientific revolution that was picked up a generation later by Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, and is championed today by influential writers like E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond. Heacox takes us into how Muir changed our world, advanced the science of glaciology and popularized geology. How he got people out there. How he gave America a new vision of Alaska, and of itself. "--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Follows the life and legacy of John Muir, an environmental preservationist, whose work led to the foundation of the Sierra Club and the National Park System.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire takes two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska, and combines them into a brisk and engaging biography.John Muir was a fascinating man who was many things: inventor, scientist, revolutionary, druid (a modern day Celtic priest), husband, son, father and friend, and a shining son of the Scottish Enlightenment -- both in temperament and intellect. Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak, bring us a story that evolves as Muir’s life did, from one of outdoor adventure into one of ecological guardianship. Muir went from impassioned author to leading activist. He would popularize glaciers unlike anybody else, and be to glaciers what Jacques Cousteau would be to the oceans and Carl Sagan to the starsThe book also offers an environmental caveat on global climate change and the glaciers' retreat alongside a beacon of hope: Muir shows us how one person changed America, helped it embrace its wilderness, and in turn, gave us a better world.In 2005, Californians had to choose a design for its commemorative quarter. Hundreds of submissions – the iconic Hollywood sign above Hollywood Hills, the 1849 Gold Rush, the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. – fell away until one remained: an image of John Muir. 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Muir’s death. Muir’s legacy is that he reordered our priorities and contributed to a new scientific revolution that was picked up a generation later by Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, and is championed today by influential writers like E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond.Heacox takes us into how Muir changed our world, advanced the science of glaciology and popularized geology. How he got people out there. How he gave America a new vision of Alaska, and of itself.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A dual biography of two of the most compelling elements in the narrative of wild America, John Muir and Alaska.John Muir was a fascinating man who was many things: inventor, scientist, revolutionary, druid (a modern day Celtic priest), husband, son, father and friend, and a shining son of the Scottish Enlightenment -- both in temperament and intellect. Kim Heacox, author of The Only Kayak, bring us a story that evolves as Muir’s life did, from one of outdoor adventure into one of ecological guardianship---Muir went from impassioned author to leading activist. The book is not just an engaging and dramatic profile of Muir, but an expose on glaciers, and their importance in the world today. Muir shows us how one person changed America, helped it embrace its wilderness, and in turn, gave us a better world.December 2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of Muir’s death. Muir died of a broken heart, some say, when Congress voted to approve the building of Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park. Perhaps in the greatest piece of environmental symbolism in the U.S. in a long time, on the California ballot this November is a measure to dismantle the Hetch Hetchy Dam.Muir’s legacy is that he reordered our priorities and contributed to a new scientific revolution that was picked up a generation later by Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson, and is championed today by influential writers like E.O. Wilson and Jared Diamond. Heacox will take us into how Muir changed our world, advanced the science of glaciology and popularized geology. How he got people out there. How he gave America a new vision of Alaska, and of itself.