Celebrating John Muir's Incessant Study That Saved Yosemite National Park
Run a Google search on naturalist and preservationist John Muir and you will quickly turn up one of his best-known, yet abbreviated, sayings: “The mountains are calling and I must go." It's a compelling quote that says it all for many outdoor lovers, which may explain why it's printed widely on mugs, t-shirts, posters and jewelry and paraphrased by today's adventurers.
However, the shortened quote doesn't fully capture John Muir or his desire to understand and protect California's Yosemite—a grand glacially cut valley with sheer 2,500-foot walls, now federally protected as one of the oldest of the Sierra Nevada's four national parks.
As we mark the anniversary of Muir's birth on April 21, 1838, we should consider the full quote, which appears in an 1873 letter from Muir to his sister: “The mountains are calling & I must go & I will work on while I can, studying incessantly." These words reveal a man who saw responsibility and purpose as well as pleasure in the mountains. Muir was a master observer who enjoyed the constant work of understanding nature.
As the curator of John Muir's papers at the University of the Pacific, I help researchers to “study incessantly" these raw materials and get the full unabbreviated story. The papers reveal Muir's determination to interpret and preserve nature and his seminal role in the creation of the National Park Service which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
You too can participate in not only understanding Muir but making him more accessible by transcribing his handwritten journals. We are enlisting citizen curators to harvest Muir's words and make his journals keyword-searchable. Of course, the payoff for the transcribers is finding their own meaningful Muir quotation.
Revelry and Science
Through Muir's archives we can trace how his thinking about Yosemite evolved over almost half a century. He first mentioned the valley in an 1867 letter after an industrial accident left him temporarily blind: “I read a description of the Yo Semite valley last year and have thought of it most every day since."
Muir, who was born in Scotland and grew up in Wisconsin, attended college briefly and “botanized" every chance he could get. He made his living as an inventor and efficiency expert, but the accident realigned his thinking. As he would later recall in his autobiography, he “made haste with all my heart, bade adieu to all thoughts of inventing machinery and determined to devote the rest of my life to studying the inventions of God."
Before acting on those “every day" thoughts and going to Yosemite, Muir wanted to follow the footsteps of famed naturalist Alexander von Humboldt to South America, so he grabbed some books and a plant press and started his “thousand mile walk to the Gulf" of Mexico from Indianapolis. However, a bout with malaria in Florida diverted his attention from visiting South America. He decided to make his way to California via steamship as quickly as possible.
Muir arrived at the granite cliffs of Yosemite in the spring of 1868. He was low on money but high on the majestic beauty of the granite faces, the mighty Giant Sequoia trees and the roaring waterfalls. In a letter to mentor and friend Jeanne Carr, he wrote, “It is by far the grandest of all of His special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter. It must be the sanctum sanctorum of the Sierras [sic]."
The Sierra had called and he went. Muir studied the “Range of Light" incessantly for the next five years while living in Yosemite Valley. He understood that his studies could be risky—for example, he practically dangled himself over the top of the 2,500-foot Yosemite Falls in order to observe the motion of the water—but expressed no fear, exclaiming “Where could a mountaineer find a more glorious death!"
Muir's intense observations deepened his understanding of the natural world and called him further into nature. Entering a grove of Giant Sequoias, the largest trees in the world, he wrote what historian Bonnie Gisel considers Muir's pledge of allegiance to the wilderness:
"The King Tree and me have sworn eternal love, … and I have taken sacrament with Douglas Squirrel [and drank] sequoia blood. ... I wish I could be more tree-wise and sequoiacal, so I could preach the green brown woods to all the juiceless masses."
Muir used his observations to interpret the science of Yosemite and the Sierra. Before Muir arrived, California's first geologists had theorized that Yosemite was created by cataclysmic dropping of the valley floor through violent earthquakes. But based on his studies and exploration, Muir concluded that glaciers had scraped Half Dome and carved the granite cliffs. Today geologists widely agree that glaciers were key forces in the origins of the valley.
Preserving the Sierra
In the early 1870s, Muir pulled his Yosemite observations together and published articles about the grand scenery. He preached his theories and called those “juiceless masses" to join him in the mountains. Years later he wrote, “[T]ry the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action."
Muir also began to call for protecting Yosemite and the Sierra. He saw major threats from loggers' axes and the livestock industry's “hoofed locusts"—his description of sheep that were overgrazing and destroying mountain meadows. Two years after Yosemite National Park was created in 1890, he cofounded the Sierra Club to preserve California's greatest mountain range and make it more accessible.
Muir's books and articles helped to promote appreciation of wilderness and attracted political attention. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Yosemite with Muir, hoping to “drop politics absolutely for four days and just be out in the open with you."
In 1908 Muir joined another president, William Howard Taft, in Yosemite, seeking to stop a campaign by the city of San Francisco to build a reservoir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which lay inside the national park. Muir declared in outrage, “Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man."
The battle to preserve the glorious valley was lost in 1913 when Congress passed a bill authorizing the dam. The loss practically killed Muir as well and he died of pneumonia in a Los Angeles hospital a year later.
Summing up Muir's legacy with the statement that “the mountains are calling and I must go" can suggest that he viewed nature as a playground. When he added, “& I will work on while I can, studying incessantly," we see a more complete picture of Muir's relationship with Yosemite. He viewed the Sierra with a combination of reverence and scientific fascination, but understood that its future depended on his efforts. Reading Muir's writing carefully, we can recognize our continuing responsibility to observe, interpret and celebrate the value of his “sanctum sanctorum."
Michael Wurtz is the head of special collections at the University Library at University of the Pacific.
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By Jake Johnson
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Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
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(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
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