Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America from the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels

By Jerry McNerney; Martin Cheek | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Energy and the Environment

On March 27, 1868, a twenty-nine-year-old traveler reached San Francisco on the steamship Nebraska. Soon after his arrival, he asked a local carpenter for directions for the quickest way out of the city. The workman replied, “Where do you want to go?” The traveler responded, “Anywhere that is wild.”1 That brief conversation set the Scottish-born John Muir on a walk into the wilderness that would make him a leader in the movement to save America’s environment from exploitation. During the first stage of his journey, he passed through the Eden-like Santa Clara Valley and admired flowers blooming in sheets of spring color across the hillsides. By mid-April, he reached the tiny farm village of Gilroy and asked for directions to the Sierras. Someone pointed him east toward Pacheco Pass, which cut through the Diablo Mountain Range. On or close to his birthday on April 21, Muir arrived at the pass’s summit and gazed toward the rising sun, beholding a landscape that would inspire him for the rest of his days. As he gained his first sight of the Sierra Nevadas on the other side of California’s great Central Valley, Muir christened these magnificent mountains “the Range of Light.” It’s a description still used to convey their geologic grandeur.2

If he could observe our twenty-first-century world, the most important environmentalist in American history would certainly be concerned about the impact that pollution from fossil fuels has had on our planet’s natural environment. Muir would no doubt support the energy-freedom movement

-103-

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