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John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

Overview

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, ...

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John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

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Overview

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 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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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
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.)
From the Publisher
"Fascinating...A wonderfully personal biography of Muir......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." - Publishers Weekly [Starred Review]

“A gripping biography of "a gentle rebel, a talkative hermit, an enthusiastic wanderer, a distant son of the Scottish Enlightenment, inspired by ice."- Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review]

“In this compelling narrative, Kim Heacox brings us the man the Tlingits called the “great ice chief” and shows that Alaska was an equally powerful force in shaping Muir’s views and igniting the passion – part religion, part science – that burned so brightly in his soul. It’s a welcome corrective. As Muir himself said, ‘A man who neither believes in God nor glaciers must be… the worst kind of unbeliever.’” - Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

“There couldn’t be a more gifted or qualified writer than Kim Heacox to tell the story of John Muir’s travels to Alaska and his passion for glaciers. This beautifully crafted and meticulously researched book chronicles Muir’s journeys with the kind of detail that puts readers beside him in a rain-drenched canoe, paddling into an ice-cold, unknown land where glaciers are sages, 300-foot-tall ancients telling the story of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. Muir realized more than one hundred years ago that the planet was warming. Ice never lies, Heacox shows us. If only we would listen” - Debra McKinney, coauthor of Beyond the Bear

“Kim Heacox has sculpted for us the pure John Muir, the passionate high priest of Nature, out scaling his beloved glaciers, far from the spiritual contaminations of the madding modern world. Heacox’s storytelling is a delight. His portrait of Muir is indelible. For lovers of the outdoors, his new book is a rare treasure, limned in prose vivid enough to chew and to paint with.” - Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?

Praise for The Only Kayak
"A tender chronicle of a miracle in process." Kirkus Reviews

"Kim Heacox has outdone himself. This book is funny, sad, erudite, and beautifully written, and an important contribution to Alaska literature. It’s a rarity – a book that manages to convey an important environmental message without sliding into self-absorbed intellectualism… As a student of Alaska literature and a professional writer, I’m grateful for this book. " - Nick Jans, author of A Wolf Called Romeo

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-20
A riveting biography of John Muir (1838–1914), America's foremost "naturalist, activist, and pacifist." Examining Muir's legacy and recounting how his vision altered America's perception of the natural world, Alaska-based author Heacox (The Only Kayak: A Journey into the Heart of Alaska, 2005, etc.) ably explores the story of the man who changed popular attitudes toward the American landscape. Told chronologically in four parts, Heacox begins in 1879 with Muir's "watershed" trip to Alaska, the first of seven he would make. Traveling by canoe with a group of Tlingit natives, Muir first glimpsed Glacier Bay, where he saw "the imposing fronts of five huge glaciers flowing into the berg-filled expanse of the bay." Toggling between Muir's life story and the popular culture of his time, Heacox creates a fully formed portrait of this American icon. A well-known cast of characters graces the pages of the author's narrative, including the nature writer John Burroughs, President Theodore Roosevelt, photographer Edward Curtis, author Mark Twain and the man who would become Muir's nemesis, the nation's chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot viewed the forest as an asset to be managed for wise use and harvested regularly, while Muir valued the aesthetics supplied by untouched landscapes. His books and magazines greatly influenced popular opinion about mountains, forests and glaciers. Moreover, he "may have been the first naturalist to ascribe glacial retreat to global warming." Though Muir made "no major peer-reviewed contributions to the science of glaciology," he would be, writes Heacox, "what Jacques Cousteau would be to the oceans and Carl Sagan to the stars." The author concludes with a moving epilogue artfully stitching Muir's legacy into the 21st century and the issues presented by climate change and its perils. A gripping biography of "a gentle rebel, a talkative hermit, an enthusiastic wanderer, a distant son of the Scottish Enlightenment, inspired by ice."
Alaska Dispatch News
[This] subject certainly found its match in Kim Heacox of Gustavus. There’s no writer living today better suited to telling the story of -- as the book’s subtitle promises -- “how a visionary and the glaciers of Alaska changed America.”. . . .He brings to life in this well-crafted narrative a complex and compelling character in the context of his times -- and now, in ours.
From the Publisher
"Fascinating...A wonderfully personal biography of Muir......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." --Publishers Weekly [Starred Review]"A gripping biography of "a gentle rebel, a talkative hermit, an enthusiastic wanderer, a distant son of the Scottish Enlightenment, inspired by ice." --Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review]"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." --Booklist [Starred Review]"In a graceful coda noting the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act and other conservationist legislation, Heacox transfers Muir's mind-set into the present day."- The Boston Globe"Stunning...Heacox is a literary companion Muir would certainly endorse." --Alaska Dispatch"In this compelling narrative, Kim Heacox brings us the man the Tlingits called the "great ice chief" and shows that Alaska was an equally powerful force in shaping Muir's views and igniting the passion – part religion, part science – that burned so brightly in his soul. It's a welcome corrective. As Muir himself said, 'A man who neither believes in God nor glaciers must be… the worst kind of unbeliever.'" - Dayton Duncan, author of The National Parks: America's Best Idea"There couldn't be a more gifted or qualified writer than Kim Heacox to tell the story of John Muir's travels to Alaska and his passion for glaciers. This beautifully crafted and meticulously researched book chronicles Muir's journeys with the kind of detail that puts readers beside him in a rain-drenched canoe, paddling into an ice-cold, unknown land where glaciers are sages, 300-foot-tall ancients telling the story of where we've been and where we're headed. Muir realized more than one hundred years ago that the planet was warming. Ice never lies, Heacox shows us. If only we would listen" - Debra McKinney, coauthor of Beyond the Bear"Kim Heacox has sculpted for us the pure John Muir, the passionate high priest of Nature, out scaling his beloved glaciers, far from the spiritual contaminations of the madding modern world. Heacox's storytelling is a delight. His portrait of Muir is indelible. For lovers of the outdoors, his new book is a rare treasure, limned in prose vivid enough to chew and to paint with." - Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?Praise for The Only Kayak"A tender chronicle of a miracle in process." Kirkus Reviews"Kim Heacox has outdone himself. This book is funny, sad, erudite, and beautifully written, and an important contribution to Alaska literature. It's a rarity – a book that manages to convey an important environmental message without sliding into self-absorbed intellectualism… As a student of Alaska literature and a professional writer, I'm grateful for this book. " - Nick Jans, author of A Wolf Called Romeo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762792429
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/1/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 148,265
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kim Heacox is the author of several books on biography, history and conservation, plus a novel, Caribou Crossing, about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His Alaska memoir, The Only Kayak (Lyons Press), a PEN USA Literary Award finalist in creative non-fiction, is now in its seventh printing. Kim was a writer-in-residence at Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute in 1998, and in Denali National Park in 2012. He’s written feature articles for many national magazines, and opinion-editorials for The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and The Anchorage Daily News. He lives in Gustavus, Alaksa, near Glacier Bay.

Visit him at www.kimheacox.com.     

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