John Muir is frequently quoted about the outdoors. Turns out, he said some really bad stuff, too. Let’s quote these inspiring women of the outdoors instead.
Environmentalist. Mountain Man. Founder of the Sierra Club. Father of the National Parks. This is what many of us think of when we think of John Muir. It’s why so many of us have quoted his lyrical musings about nature.
“The mountains are calling,” and you must go, right?
(We’ve included him in a list of quotes about the outdoors, ourselves.)
But Muir wasn’t exactly the role model we all think of when we read his quotes beneath pictures of snow-covered peaks on Instagram.
A 2015 article from The New Yorker, Environmentalism’s Racist History, has resurfaced this week. It’s making the rounds on social media, and a lot of people are disheartened to discover that Muir was mostly concerned with the preservation of nature for people who looked like him — namely, white guys. And while he spoke beautiful, loving words about plants and animals, he was less loving towards fellow humans. The author of the New Yorker article, Jedidiah Purdy, writes:
“But Muir, who felt fraternity with four-legged “animal people” and even plants, was at best ambivalent about human brotherhood. Describing a thousand-mile walk from the Upper Midwest to the Gulf of Mexico, he reported the laziness of “Sambos.” Later he lamented the “dirty and irregular life” of Indians in the Merced River valley, near Yosemite.”
While trekking across the Trail of Tears, where 4,000 Native Americans lost their lives while being forced to abandon their homes, despite a U.S. treaty that guaranteed their land rights, Muir described the Cherokee homes he came upon as, “the uncouth transitionist …wigwams of savages.”
So. John Muir did some great things for conservation. And there’s no denying, he gave us some stirring language to borrow when we’re speechless over nature’s beauty. But also, he kinda sucked.
Since John Muir might be the most quoted person in the outdoor industry, we thought it’s long past time to compile a list of quotes from less problematic figures. And when we started searching, we noticed something that shouldn’t be surprising, as the environmentalist movement John Muir was a part of was very much a boys club — very few of the quotes passed around are from inspiring women.
We dug deeper and found them.
13 Quotes From Inspiring Women on Nature & the Outdoors
In honor of Women’s History Month, here are 13 quotes about nature and the outdoors from inspiring women throughout history.
“You don’t have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.” –Annie Dillard
“Education, if it means anything, should not take people away from the land, but instill in them even more respect for it, because educated people are in a position to understand what is being lost. The future of the planet concerns all of us, and all of us should do what we can to protect it. As I told the foresters, and the women, you don’t need a diploma to plant a tree.” — Wangari Maathai“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.” –Linda Hogan Click To Tweet
“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson"The beauty of the natural world lies in the details." — Natalie Angier Click To Tweet
“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.'” — Sylvia Plath“The environment, after all, is where we all meet, where we all have a mutual interest. It is one thing that all of us share. It is not only a mirror of ourselves, but a focusing lens on what we can become.” — Lady Bird Johnson Click To Tweet
“I always liked fog, it lends such a soft, beautifying light to things that otherwise in the broad glare of day would be rude and commonplace.” ― Nellie Bly
“Even if you never have the chance to see or touch the ocean, the ocean touches you with every breath you take, every drop of water you drink, every bite you consume. Everyone, everywhere is inextricably connected to and utterly dependent upon the existence of the sea.” — Dr. Sylvia Earle“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” — Terry Tempest Williams Click To Tweet
“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!” — Dr. Jane Goodall
“As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth; to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees.”― Valerie Andrews“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.” ―Nancy Newhall Click To Tweet
“Nature has been for me, for as long as I remember, a source of solace, inspiration, adventure, and delight; a home, a teacher, a companion.”― Lorraine Anderson
Join us all month in celebrating inspiring Women in the Outdoors here at The Dyrt.