Muir Among the Animals

edited by Lisa Mighetto


( from the book's dust jacket )


Muir Among the Animals
edited by Lisa Mighetto
1986
Sierra Club Books, San Francisco

Few people are aware of how much of John Muir's writing was devoted to the subject of animals. Although the nineteenth-century naturalist is best known for his celebrations of mountain scenery, for his role in the early development of the national parks system, and for founding the Sierra Club, his observations of wildlife still make compelling reading, especially for the modern reader concerned with animal rights and animal welfare.

Collected here for the first time are Muir's superb essays about those creatures he referred to as his "horizontal brothers." Written in lively and often humorous prose, his writings reveal much about the attitudes toward animals at the turn of the century and, at times, Muir's prescience about future wildlife issues. Always, the reader's sense of empathy and understanding for the lives of animals are enriched by Muir's keen observations.

The essays are drawn from a wide range of sources, including such favorite works as and , as well as occasional pieces that appeared in the magazines Century and Overland Monthly . Several selections are previously unpublished anywhere, including two essays on predators which reveal Muir's possession of an intellectual view that was far ahead of its time. In the essay "Anthropocentrism and Predation" he debunks his contemporaries' conventional notions of human superiority and argues that the "universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge" -- a surprisingly modern view embraced by today's "deep ecologists."

Editor Lisa Mighetto's eloquent introduction places Muir and his works into the context of the contemporary debate on animal rights, and photographs of Muir in the wilderness and among his beloved animals add poignance to this remarkable collection. Characteristically incisive and colorful, these essays together reaffirm a fundamental environmental premise -- that maintaining wildlife as well as wilderness assures healthy ecosystems, and that animals have an intrinsic worth apart from their usefulness to humans. Ultimately, they help us see how "any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way."