Wilderness Idea Movie


(crickets chirping) – [Narrator] George Evans, 1904. Whenever the light of
civilization falls upon you with a blighting power,
go to the wilderness. Dull business routine, the fierce passions of the marketplace, the
perils of envious cities become but a memory. The wilderness will take hold of you. It will give you good, red, blood. It will turn you from a
weakling into a strong man. You will soon behold all,
with a peaceful soul. (light instrumental music) At the turn of the 20th century, the nation was in the grip
of a wilderness craze. The well to do escaped the
teeming cities by the droves. Americans became nostalgic for a simpler, more primitive life. And in to the wilderness bounded
such newly created groups as the Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Boy Scouts, the Campfire Girls. The real America, people thought, was here, in the wilderness. – I think the reason that
wilderness is important in this culture and to Americans is that it’s the one
thing that sets us apart from the rest of the world. No other nation in the
temperate latitudes developed with wilderness as much
a part of its history as did the United States. We literally stepped off
the Mayflower and into the wilderness, and it was
with us for the next 300 years. So if there was one thing
that shaped our character and culture, one single
factor you could point to, it would be wild country. – [Narrator] For 300 years,
the common American response to a tree was to cut it down. The original wilderness
stretched almost unbroken from Maine to California. Three million square miles of trees. By 1900, 90% of these
virgin forests had been cut down or burned. – My family plowed up
a lot of buffalo grass, and made a little dust
bowl, on the Saskatchewan Montana border during World War One, and, killed a lot of animals. You know, you’d grow up destroying things if you’re on a frontier. But, also you love what you’re destroying. And you find out, maybe too
late, that you do love it. Everybody underestimated
the celerity with which modern man, industrial man
equipped with industrial power and instruments, could do
in a continent like this. A lot of it we did without
knowing what we were doing. But generally speaking, it
was greed that motivated us, and the very fact that
we could be that greedy was condition on the fact
that there was all that stuff to be greedy about. – [Narrator] As wilderness
shrank, its popularity grew. By 1900, people began to
believe that wilderness might be worth defending. Their uneasiness with
progress was the origin of the American Conservation Movement. – Never before in American
history, had anybody stopped to think about whether developing
the West, damming rivers, running off Indians, killing
buffaloes, building roads and railroads, those were accepted goods. Motherhood and apple pie stuff. Now for the first time
in American history, a large, national movement
began to take shape around the proposition that the
transformation of wilderness into civilization might not
be a total and complete good. – [Narrator] From the beginning,
the movement to rescue what was left of the wilderness
was a divided crusade. On one side was John Muir, first President of the Sierra Club. On the other was Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the US Forest Service. They were unlikely opponents. They had a common calling, to save the American forests from
wholesale destruction. And for a time, they were friends. Both men are now considered fathers of American conservation. But what conservation meant to the two was two quite different things. Eventually, their
disagreement over the use of wilderness turned into a showdown, a struggle over a remote
valley in California called Hetch Hetchy. Here, the Tuolumne River tumbled through a steep walled canyon, the perfect site for a dam and reservoir for the city of San Francisco. There was only one problem. The Hetch Hetchy Valley was
within Yosemite National Park. – Supposedly, the National
Parks were protected from any sort of major human intrusion, like a dam in the lower end of a valley, to create a water tank for
the city of San Francisco. So that’s the issue. Are there parts of this
country that can be absolutely protected from this sort
of gross human intrusion? – [Narrator] To Gifford Pinchot,
the valley was worthless if its natural resources
were left untouched. To John Muir, Hetch
Hetchy was a sacred place, a temple of nature. Development of it was simple desecration. – [Gifford] Gifford Pinchot. The Earth belongs of
right to all is people, not to a minority,
insignificant in numbers, but tremendous in wealth and power. The public good must come first. – [John] John Muir. There is a numerous
class of man who are cast into painful fits of astonishment. Whenever they can find
anything in all God’s universe, which they can not render what they call useful to themselves. – For Pinchot, the
landscape could be improved if humans managed it. Which means that for him,
it was never God’s preserve, it was man’s preserve. It was man’s preserve to
manage and improve upon. For Muir, it was as God made it, perfect. – [Narrator] Pinchot and
Muir represent opposite tendencies in American society. Pinchot’s loyalties lay with civilization. Muir’s with wilderness. The contrast was a recurring
theme in their lives, and it was one they had been born to. John Muir was 11 when
his family immigrated from Scotland to Wisconsin in 1849. They set up a homestead on the frontier, four miles from the nearest neighbor. Life in the Muir household
had a Spartan bent. – [John] We were all made slaves through the vice of over industry. We were called to work
on the farm at 4:00, and seldom got to bed before nine, making a broiling,
seething day of 17 hours, loaded with heavy work. Father taught us to
consider ourselves very poor ones of the dust. He devoutly believed that
quenching every spark of pride and self confidence was a sacred duty. – I think probably that
Muir is the archetypal second generation American. The first generation American, his father, comes to the United States, planning to make his way in the world. He is an entrepreneur. Like most American
entrepreneurs, he depends upon the two great sources of American wealth, cheap resources and cheap labor. The cheap labor, as it
turns out, was his son. – [Narrator] Muir’s father
was a strict Calvinist who believed in purifying the spirit by brutalizing the flesh. No pictures hung on the
Muir household walls. The only book allowed was the Bible. Daniel Muir even banned from the house the ancient Highland
songs John’s mother loved to sing to her children. – [John] In all the
world, I know of nothing more pathetic and deplorable
than a broken hearted child, sobbing itself to sleep
after being unjustly punished by a truly pious and
conscientious misguided parent. – [Narrator] Gifford
Pinchot was born in 1865, 27 years after Muir. His parents were frequent
guests at the White House. Gifford passed his childhood in mansions in Connecticut, New
York, and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania estate,
Grey Towers, was built in the style of a Norman chateau. A family trip to France
lasted three years. One night, Pinchot’s mother
recorded a particularly unusual occurrence in her diary. “No one to dinner”, she wrote. – He went to the best
schools in the United States. He constantly was being
taken to Europe, to travel with his parents. He saw museums, he saw European forests. He saw the world in ways
that very very few people of his generation did. That had an enormous impact
on him as a young man. It, I think, fueled a kind of arrogance, an arrogance to power
that he certainly had. He was raised to be a powerful man. And I think he lived his
life out on those terms. – [Narrator] Muir’s father
forbad John to read. Gifford Pinchot’s father
financed an education at Yale and in Europe. For Muir, wilderness was
an escape from his father. For Pinchot, forestry
was the career his father chose for him. – [Gifford] “How would you
like to be a forester?”, asked my foresighted father,
one fortunate morning in the summer of 1885. It was an amazing question
for that day and generation. How amazing, I didn’t begin
to understand at the time. When it was asked, not a single American had made forestry his profession. – It’s momentous given the
class that he comes out of, that this would be his choice. Youth out of New York
City, of elite families, did not as a matter of course,
take on public careers. Very few of them did. It’s important, because
here’s a child of the elite choosing public service and
not the making of greater amounts of money as his occupation. – [Narrator] John Muir,
the immigrant farm boy, would have to make his own fortune. For years, on winter
mornings before first light, he had tinkered in his father’s basement. At 23, his invention strapped to his back, he headed for the state fair in Madison. – [News Reporter] The
Madison State Journal, 1860. While at the fair grounds this morning, we saw some very ingenious
specimens of mechanism in the form of clocks,
made by Mr. John Muir. We will venture to predict
that few articles will attract as much attention as these
products of Mr. Muir’s ingenuity. (upbeat instrumental music) – [Narrator] Muir had designed
water wheels, barometers, hygrometers, and pyrometers. He built what he called
the loafer’s chair. A hidden pistol fired
blanks when anyone sat down. (gun shot) Another invention was
an early rising machine. It magnified the first rays of sunlight, so that they burned through
a thread, causing the bed to tip up and dump its
sleeping occupant to the floor. (thump) His favorite device was
a self regulating desk. It automatically opened
a book, gave the reader a set amount of time, then
slapped the book shut, and got out another. He found work as an
assembler at a broom factory. Two weeks later, he was foreman. Soon, he had devised some of the first time and motion studies ever. – [John] Output promptly doubled. – [Narrator] At 28, he
was running a carriage factory in Indianapolis. The American dream was his for the taking. And John Muir was clearly uneasy. – [John] I suppose I am
doomed to live in some of these noisy commercial centers. Now that I am among
machines, I begin to feel that I shall turn my whole
life into that channel, unless things change. – [Narrator] One night,
he was working late adjusting a conveyor belt. A slender sharp file suddenly slipped, flew up, and pierced his eye. The aqueous humours of the eye dripped out into his cupped hand. In hours, the other eye too became blind, from sympathetic shock. He was confined to bed in
a darkened room for weeks. He swore that if his eyes
healed, he would give up the inventions of man, and
live for the inventions of God. Slowly, he recovered his eyesight. For the rest of his
life, Muir would equate God with light. An accident halted the
progress of young John’s life. Gifford Pinchot, healthy and
confident, sailed for Europe, where the science of forestry was taught. He was 24. – [Gifford] I had no
more conception of what it meant to be a forester
than the man in the moon. But at least a forester
worked in the woods, and I loved the woods. Whatever forestry might be, I was for it. – [Narrator] He returned
from Europe with the honest fear that what had happened
in France could happen here. The country could run out of trees. – [Gifford] In France,
the peasants carry away every scrap of deer wood,
and branches down to the size of a pencil can actually be sold. In America, people are still burning logs to get them out of the way. I am more and more convinced
of the imperative need for government control. – [Narrator] Pinchot’s central
belief was that scientific forestry, the controlled
planting and cutting of trees, would not only stem the
tide of destruction, but also prove profitable. His chance came when an old family friend, George Vanderbilt, hired
him to supervise Biltmore, a 7000 acre estate in North Carolina. Pinchot quickly turned
Biltmore into a model of practical forestry,
cutting selectively, leaving all young trees, and
some mature ones for seed. – When Pinchot started
his conservation work in the 1890s, the prevailing
methods of lumbering were terribly wasteful. In California, they would
simply burn the larger, oldest, Sequoia trees,
because they were too brittle to be used. And what Pinchot opposed
was simply the waste of it. Pinchot adopted the
language and the assumptions of the modern age, ideals of efficiency, stability, management, rationality. He’s very much a modern man. And in that way, he differs from Muir. Muir doubted the main
course of the modern age. Pinchot accepted it, simply wanted to make it more manageable. – [Narrator] After a year,
Pinchot’s project was a success. It showed a profit of $392.40. He rushed off to New York
to hang out his shingle, Consulting Forester, he called himself. He was the first American
born professional forester in the United States. Gifford Pinchot was a man with a vision. John Muir saw that his
future was not in America’s factories and cities. He had been on the brink
of becoming a rich man. Now, he became a tramp. – [John] I want to wander just anywhere in the wilderness, not as
a mere sport or play thing excursion, but to find the
law that governs the relations between human beings and nature. – [Narrator] He spread
a map out under a tree in Louisville, Kentucky,
and plotted a thousand mile walk to the Gulf Of Mexico. At 29, he was finally
venturing into the wild world. But that world turned out
to be a very different place than the paradise he expected. He walked for six weeks. By the time he reached the Gulf Coast, he was sick with malaria,
feverish, and shaking in a world of danger. The natural world had turned
hateful and threatening. These ugly ravenous creatures
had no obvious purpose. But here, Muir had a crucial revelation. – [Michael] He finds that
the world is not made for him, if you will. And his realization that that
world isn’t made for him, but is nonetheless
beautiful, self consistent, useful to itself, causes
him to rethink his own role. And he does so. – [John] How narrow we
selfish creatures are in our sympathies. How blind to the rights of
all the rest of creation. The world, we are told, was made for man. A presumption that is totally
unsupported by the facts. Why ought man to value
himself as more than an infinitely small composing unit of the one great unit of creation? – The issue is the
human place in the grand scheme of things. The Muir point of view
says that humans are simply part of the grand scheme,
and that everything on Earth is not just put
here for human purposes. The Bible, Christian cosmology in general, tends to elevate humans above
every other form of life. It says that only humans have souls, only humans get to go to heaven. And Muir inverted that,
to the point that it’s… At times, he seems he values
trees and bears over humans. – [Narrator] This was
the first time that Muir questioned the pre-eminence of utility as a measure of things. The issue of usefulness would later be the crux of the argument between John Muir and Gifford Pinchot, and
the basis of the schism in the entire conservation movement. In 1869, Muir took a
steamer to San Francisco. His first act, according
to legend, was to ask the quickest way out of town. Where to? “Anywhere that’s wild”, Muir said. Within a year, Muir had
made his way to the Sierras. – The wonderful thing
about Muir and the Sierra is that his letters indicate he was not immediately taken with the Sierra. And his letters indicate
that transformation into somebody who could see
and write about this place was as difficult for
him as it is for anybody who first comes to Yosemite. He looked at Yosemite
Falls, he looked, in fact, at Bridal Veil Falls, and he said, “Oh no, not for me, it’s
too big, it’s too scary.” And it was only gradually
that he began to see what was there. And as he did, it appeared
that he was sort of ceasing to be interested in
anything except the mountains. And he became wilder and
wilder, less and less sociable. He appeared to be a
creature of the mountains, with his long scraggly beard. And he was, in fact, totally
absorbed by his experience in that place, at that time. And as a result, people
thought of him as being a little strange. – [John] I’ve taken the
sacrament with Douglas squirrel, drank Sequoia
wine, Sequoia blood. I wish I was so drunk in
Sequoical that I could preach the green ground woods to
all the juiceless world. Descending from the divine
wilderness like a John Baptist, crying, “Repent, for the
kingdom of Sequoia is at hand.” – [Narrator] For eight years,
Muir tried to be nothing less than a part of the wilderness. His Yosemite cabin did
have the convenience of running water. A river ran through it. He spent weeks in the high country, climbing treacherous peaks alone. This was the legendary
John of the mountains, a wild Scotsman who danced
over boulder fields, who rapturously welcomed
even a powerful earthquake. – It’s really Muir who
gives us the notion that we can go into the
wilderness, and not fear it. That the God that is there is not going to threaten to destroy us. Muir wasn’t terrified of that God at all. He said that he could
climb to the top of a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm
in the Yosemite Valley, which strikes me as an insane thing to do. And expressed no terror
at that at all, but rather a kind of open armed embrace
of the divine within nature. – [John] I can not tell
the glow that lights me in turning to the mountains. I feel strong enough to leap
Yosemite walls at a bound. I will fuse in spirit skies. I will touch naked God. – Mountain climbing was
very rudimentary in his day, in the 1870s. He just went up there with, usually, a pack animal to carry
the heavier equipment, and some simple tools to
take samples and altitudes and the like. And very slender rations, tea and flour, essentially, is what he lived on up there. And no ordinary human
being could live like that for weeks at a time, Muir did. He went up there into a
sort of religious ecstasy. He was in raptures up there. He didn’t carry blankets,
he would simply make a fire, and lie by the fire all
night, and freeze on one side, and be warm on the other side,
and turn over at intervals. And in the morning, be very stiff and cold and glad that morning had come. But then the sun would come
up, and it would be beautiful. And Muir would saunter off
in to one of his surveys. Perfectly happy. (light instrumental music) – [Narrator] The wild man
of the mountains was also a self taught scientist. His articles began appearing
in national magazines. For years, he traveled
throughout the wilderness, writing about the natural world. Finally, he’d had enough of wandering. At the age of 42, John Muir settled down. He married Louisiana
Strentzel and took over her father’s fruit farm
in Martinez, California, far from Yosemite. He tended his grapes and
cherries, helped care for his two daughters,
and wrote not at all. He was out of both the public eye and his beloved wilderness. (clock ticking) His wife called these “the lost years”. – [John] This is a good
place to be housed in during stormy weather,
and to raise children in. But it is not my home. Up there is my home. – [Narrator] At his wife’s
urging, John went back to the mountains, and his writing. He became an advocate for
wilderness, and the primary force in the creation of
Yosemite National Park. His articles and books
warned the nation that the wilderness was under siege. By 1890, America was an industrial nation. And like all industrial
nations, had a limitless appetite for its own natural resources. But the resources were not limitless. – [Gifford] Gifford Pinchot. The American colossus is
fiercely intent on appropriating the riches of the richest
of all continents. The most rapid and
extensive forest destruction ever known is in full swing. Hundreds of millions of acres
of forests are given away. The man who can get his
hands on the biggest slice of natural resources is the best citizen. – [Narrator] By 1896, only
a tenth of the country’s original forests survived unscathed. Everywhere, the public
domain was under attack. In Wyoming, fires burned the forests of the Bighorn Mountains to the ground. In the Northwest, sheep skinned the once lush mountain meadows. Logging reduced the redwoods
of northern California to a desolate expanse of black stumps. Miners were even digging
away at the Grand Canyon. At Pinchot’s urging, the
Secretary of the Interior appointed a commission
to tour the destruction. The commission secretary was, not surprisingly, Gifford Pinchot. An unofficial member was John Muir. – [Gifford] I met the
commission at Belton, Montana. To my delight, John Muir was with it. In his late fifties, tall, thin, cordial, and a most fascinating
talker, I took to him at once. – [John] At the Grand
Canyon, we built a fire to dry our drenched clothing. Pinchot and I went a
hundred feet up a ridge. Heavy rain during the night. All slept in the tent except Pinchot. – They took off by themselves, spent the day hiking around
the rim of the canyon. Muir showed Pinchot a little
trick that he had learned making a new heaven and
a new earth, by standing on his head, and thus
inverting the landscape. They camped out that night on the rim, offering up some cedar
incense to the gods. Muir told more of his great stories, and Pinchot was absolutely enthralled. – [Gifford] While the others
drove through the woods to a scenic point and back
again, with John Muir, I spent an unforgettable day on the rim of the Grand Canyon. We made our beds of cedar
boughs in a thick stand, and there, he talked until midnight. It was such an evening as I have never had before or since. In the early morning, we sneaked back like guilty school boys. – What we have here, I
think, to begin with, was an older man younger man situation. Which always has its
dramatic and psychological, you know, problems. Muir I think to some extent
to Pinchot was a kind of father figure, as
he was to many people. He was a spellbinding guy. He knew the woods and
the wilderness in a way that Pinchot could not
possibly have imagined. (sheep baaing) – [Narrator] What came
between the two men was sheep. Muir called them hoofed
locusts, letting them loose in the meadow was for him,
the same as destroying it. In August 1897, Pinchot
argued in the press for grazing on public land. But furious Muir stormed after
him in a crowded hotel lobby in Seattle, and held out
the newspaper clipping. “Have they quoted you
correctly here?”, he asked. When Pinchot nodded, Muir said, “Then I don’t want anything
more to do with you.” Nine years before Hetch
Hetchy, the battle lines had been drawn. – They thought that they had
a commonality of interest. They soon realized that they didn’t. Pinchot was a multiple use man. He believed you could have
forestry, and grazing, and watershed protection,
and hunting and fishing, and wilderness values,
all in the same place. Muir didn’t agree. He thought if you had
those other economic uses, wilderness went out the window. You couldn’t have both together. And that was really the
crux of the difference between the men. – [Narrator] Their dispute
came at a critical point in American history, the
closing of the frontier. Suddenly, Americans had lost the freedom to light out for the territories and grab their own chunk of wilderness. (gunshot) – 1880s and 1890s are
periods when Americans for the first time really
began to worry that their whole earlier way of
life might be coming to an end. In 1890, the census declared
that it was no longer possible to recognize a frontier
line, as they called it, on the map of the United States. And in 1893, in a very
famous speech, probably the most famous essay ever
written by an American historian, Frederick Jackson Turner, took that census declaration, and said, “We need to worry about this.” The frontier was the format of experience for Americans, he argued. And there are lots of
problems with his arguments. But he argued that the
frontier created democracy, it created the American character, and it acted as a melting pot. It had diffused class
struggle in the United States. There were many benefits
that the United States had derived from the frontier. And now, it occurred that the
frontier was coming to an end. – The ending of the
frontier, 1890, produced what I call a psychic
crisis in the American mind. A kind of an uneasiness about modernity, about where we were going. And even a little crisis about
what people were becoming, not just the nation, but
what was the character of people becoming? And savagism and wildness tended
to assuage those anxieties. (light instrumental music) – [Narrator] Tarzan, Lord
of the Apes was the most popular hero of the age. An upper class white child
stripped of civilization and becomes this super man
by living in the jungle. Millions of Americans
wanted to play Tarzan, and they did it by
going to the wilderness. But it was the wilderness
that had been sanitized by the forced removal of
its original inhabitants. – Wilderness became an
invention for a post Indian world, in a way. It was a world in which
the Indians had been erased from the landscape. And the wilderness that
ended up getting preserved, starting in the 1890s, was
the humanized landscape. It was a landscape that
people didn’t occupy at all, which meant erasing the
Indians from history in effect. – Americans and Indians are a sad story. I never killed any Indians,
never fought any Indians. But we used to feel
contempt for Indians when the Crees would come through in their old broken down wagons, you know. I would think of ’em as
gut eating vagabonds. Which was totally unjust. They were a beaten people, but
actually very well adapted. Much better adapted to
their country than we are. – The Indian people in
North America didn’t have an idea of wilderness,
the land wasn’t allowed. The Europeans come over
here, and they called us wild Indians, and the wild life, and wilderness, you know. There’s a concept there that it’s untamed, that it’s different, it’s not civilized. And of course, in the Indian society, the whole universe was civilized. In fact, if anybody wasn’t,
it was the human beings that lived in that universe. So we didn’t have an idea like wild. One of our chiefs said it best, “The west didn’t get wild
until the white men got there.” – [John] Even the scenery
habit, in its most artificial forms, mixed
with spectacles, silliness, and kodaks, its devotees
arrayed more gorgeously than scarlet tanagers
frightening the wild game with red umbrellas. Even this is encouraging,
and may well be regarded as a hopeful sign of the times. Thousands of tired, nerve
shaken, over civilized people are beginning to find out
that going to the mountains is going home, that
wildness is a necessity, and that mountain parks and
reservations are useful, not only as fountains of
timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. – Both Muir and Pinchot left out the poor. Indeed, they left out those
whom they thought needed the wilderness most, those
who toiled in the cities. But of course, those were the poor who had little access to the wilderness. Those who became entranced
by Muir’s relationship to wilderness were in fact the wealthy and the privileged classes. Teddy Roosevelt helped to
organize a club that was called The Boone and Crockett Club. There were various versions of that club around the country, and
it was extremely popular. The members of the Boone
and Crockett Clubs were for the most part elite
white males from Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, and New
York, who for the most part lived quite urban lives. But once a year, as club
members, they would go out to the western wilderness,
and hunt and camp, and experience themselves,
really experience themselves as though they were Daniel
Boone or Davy Crockett out in the pristine wilderness. (upbeat instrumental music) – [Narrator] The embodiment
of the nation’s return to nature was Teddy Roosevelt. He was a friend of both Pinchot and Muir. As a conservationist, he swung between. His first message to
congress took a utilitarian stance on natural resources. – [Theodore] The
fundamental idea of forestry is the perpetuation of forests by use. Forest protection is a means to increase and sustain resources. – [Narrator] These words
suited Gifford Pinchot. He wrote them. Pinchot had the presidential ear. Together, the two men rode
horseback, played tennis, boxed, wrestled, worked
out, and chopped wood. They took walks unaccompanied
by the Secret Service. Pinchot’s title was the Director
of the Bureau of Forestry. But he acted as the Roosevelt
administration’s crown prince. Then one day in the spring of
1903, John Muir got a letter. – [John] An influential
man from Washington wants to make a trip
into the Sierra with me. I might be able to do some
forest good in talking freely around the campfire. – [Narrator] The influential man happened to be the President. At Yosemite, Roosevelt and Muir
immediately became friends. They left the huge
presidential entourage behind, bolting into the woods with
only two rangers and a cook. One of the rangers noted a
slight technical problem. Both men wanted to do all the talking. Still, Muir managed to make himself heard. Roosevelt agreed to expand
Yosemite National Park, and then went on to create
53 wildlife preserves, 16 national monuments, and
five new national parks. But his closest advisor on conservation remained Gifford Pinchot. It was Pinchot who convinced
Roosevelt to create the US Forest Service, with
Pinchot as its first chief. – [John] What a glorious
chance this gives Pinchot to distinguish himself
and bless the world. But politicians, I fear,
will try as hard as ever to get in their deadly work,
in spite of all we can do. – [Narrator] Pinchot sent an
endless stream of news items to the press. Forestry found its way into 50 million newspapers each month. In 1909, his mailing list
included 781,000 names. His budget had increased
by a factor of 100. – He was a man who hungered
to be before the public, made sure that the public was
interested in what he did. When Gifford Pinchot wanted
to push for an issue, when he wanted federal reserved
land, he largely got it, because he knew how to
work the public relations system in the United States,
which is so important to success in American politics. – [Narrator] Bucking opposition
from timber and mining interests, and an often
hostile congress, Pinchot and Roosevelt managed to
triple national forest lands. The national forests were one thing, the national parks entirely another. The national forests
were open to lumbering, mining, and grazing. But no one had decided what
you could or could not do with the national parks. And it was this question
that finally brought Gifford Pinchot and John
Muir into open conflict. (jazz band music) – What was that? (boom) (screaming) (walls crashing) – [Narrator] On April 18,
1906, an earthquake struck the city of San Francisco. (man shouting) The quake was devastating. The fire was worse. The supply of water quickly failed. – My house is on fire! – Where is it? – Four blocks down on Folsom Street! – No use, boss! – Sorry brother, the water main’s broken. There’s no water to fight the fire. – [Narrator] Most of the
city burned to the ground. As the city rebuilt,
Mayor James Phelan made a secure public water supply a priority. 200 miles east of San
Francisco, Mayor Phelan found the ideal dam site, the Hetch Hetchy Valley
in Yosemite National Park. – The Hetch Hetchy
controversy, existing roughly from 1906 to 1913, has been
called a spiritual watershed in American environmental history. With Hetch Hetchy, finally
people began to scratch their heads and say, “Now
wait a minute, maybe we “shouldn’t carry this process that far. “Perhaps we’ve created
a national park here, “and we ought to leave it
alone, as it was intended “to be left alone, even
though great good could “come from developing the valley.” And here it came, nationwide controversy. Muir, Pinchot, Roosevelt,
all the big names involved in it, and the most amazing
thing about the whole Hetch Hetchy controversy, I like to say, is that it occurred at all. 50 years ago, inconceivable
that something like this would have occurred. 150 years ago, absolutely inconceivable. But here it was, in 1906 to 1913, congressional hearings,
major stories in newspapers, a transcontinental sort of issue. The whole nation consumed
over this one valley in a national park,
that frankly, only a few hundred people had ever seen. – [John] Imagine yourself in Hetch Hetchy, in a sunny day in June. Standing waist deep in
grass and flowers, as I have often stood, while the
great pines swayed dreamily with scarcely perceptible motion. Hetch Hetchy Valley is a
grand landscape garden, one of nature’s rarest and
most precious mountain temples. 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. – A place like Hetch Hetchy
was a temple for Muir. He looked upon the people
who wanted to destroy Hetch Hetchy as people
who were against God, who were Satan and company,
in fact he used the term. Manichaean view, good and evil. Muir saw God on the side of wilderness, and Stan on the side of
exploitation and development. It was clear cut for him,
made it nice and easy. – [Narrator] Mayor Phelan’s
proposals to dam the valley were repeatedly turned
down by the Secretary of the Interior. Phelan asked for help from
the most influential man in the White House, Gifford Pinchot. – On Pinchot’s side, it’s a
perfect example of the kind of conservation he envisioned,
because you’re gonna put this dam there, you’re
gonna reduce this natural scenic wonder to human uses. It’s gonna provide
water and electric power as well, it’s multi-use. So it’s very consistent
with Pinchot’s own ideas. – [Gifford] As for me,
I have always regarded the sentimental horror
of some good citizens at the idea of utilizing natural resources as unintelligent, misdirected,
and short sighted. – [John] Hetch Hetchy
is a national question. The commercial invasion of
the Yosemite National Park means that sooner or
later, all the public parks throughout our country may
be invaded and spoiled. – [Narrator] To many, the dam seemed a progressive, democratic cause. San Francisco would be
getting rid of the monopoly held by the Spring Valley Water Company. A reservoir in the national
park would give the people control of their own utilities. Gifford Pinchot was an old
enemy of huge monopolies. – [Gifford] I am fully
persuaded that the injury of substituting a lake for
the present swampy floor of the valley is altogether unimportant, compared with the benefits
to be derived by the public from its use as a reservoir. – [Narrator] Muir fought
back, using his own influence in the White House. – [John] Dear Mr. President… The promoters of the present
scheme all show forth the proud sort of confidence
that comes of a good, sound, irrefragable ignorance. As soon as light is cast
upon it, nine tenths or more of even the citizens of San Francisco would be opposed to it. – Emotionally, Teddy Roosevelt
is really aligned to Muir. He wants to have a
landscape that is primitive, and completely preserved. But as President, and as a
politician, his sympathies are with Gifford Pinchot. Roosevelt makes very clear in
correspondence to John Muir that he is suspicious
of Pinchot’s position. His heart is with Muir,
but practically, he goes with Pinchot, and he
says he will be guided by Pinchot’s judgment. – [Theodore] Dear John… So far, everyone that has
appeared has been for it. And I find it difficult
to interfere for the sake of keeping a valley, which apparently hardly anyone wanted to have
kept under national control. – [Narrator] Roosevelt
granted San Francisco a permit to dam the valley, subject to the all important approval of congress. In response, Muir and
the Sierra Club appealed to our public, growing
distrustful of unbridled progress. “The line between
civilization and wilderness “must be drawn”, Muir said. And that line was the narrow
canyon at the entrance to the Hetch Hetchy Valley. – [John] Man has come
with science and religion, preaching, plowing, planting, building. Wildness is going away. From the very beginning,
the parks have been subject to attack, by gain seekers
trying to despoil them. Mischief makers and rebels
of every degree, from Satan to senators, often times
disguised in smiles and philanthropy, calling
their plundering utilization of natural resources. – [James] Mayor James Phelan. I am sure Muir would
sacrifice his own family for the preservation of beauty. He considers human life very cheap, and the works of God superior. – [Narrator] To show the
superiority of human works, Phelan and Pinchot
circulated retouched photos, showing how the dry,
drab valley could become a pleasure ground, with slender roads, twisting around a majestic mountain lake. – [William E.] Congressman
William Englebright. As a lake, it will be one of great beauty. There will be fine fishing in
it, and boating, and so on, which would make the lake an improvement. – [John] A great political miracle this, of improving the beauty
of the most beautiful of all mountain parks,
by burying all the azalea and wild rose 300 feet deep. After this is done, we are
promised a road blasted on the slope of the north
wall, where nature lovers may sit on rustic stools,
like frogs on logs, to admire the sham dam lake,
the grave of Hetch Hetchy. – [Gifford] The present
valley is only a swamp full of mosquitoes, it is
not a great tourist place. The lake will not fill the entire valley, and certainly will not spoil the scenery. – [John] I am sorry to see
poor Pinchot running amok after so much good, hopeful work. From sound conservation,
going pell mell to destruction on the wings of crazy,
inordinate ambition. – To be successful, John Muir
needed someone to dislike, to hold up as a foil
for the rest of America, to say that there was someone
who was willing to despoil the temple of the gods in
Yosemite, or elsewhere. And Gifford Pinchot needed
John Muir just as badly. And for Pinchot, it was
important for him to be able to go to western land,
speculators, and lumber company, and mine resource exploiters, and say, “Look, I’m not all that bad,
and how do we know that? “Because there’s John Muir out there, “who makes me look good by comparison.” – [Narrator] The debate grew vitriolic. The San Francisco City Engineer
called the Muir faction “short haired women and long haired men”. The San Francisco Chronicle called them “hoggish mushy esthetes”. Even some of Muir’s old
friends were critical. – [William K.] William Kent. Muir is a man entirely
without social sense. With him, it is me and God
in the rock where God put it. And that is the end of the story. – [Narrator] In the final
congressional hearings, Gifford Pinchot was the
project’s star witness. – [Gifford] The question is so clear that I can not understand
why there’s been so much fuss about it. The turning of the
Hetch Hetchy into a lake will not be a calamity. In fact, it will be a blessing. It is simply a question
of the greatest good to the greatest number of people. – [John] These temple destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism,
seem to have a perfect contempt for nature. And instead of lifting
their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them
to the almighty dollar. – [Narrator] Pinchot
quietly lobbied congress. Muir went straight to his constituency, a country that in 1913,
loved the idea of wilderness. Thousands of letters
poured in to congress. Nearly every major
newspaper condemned a dam. – [John] Never for a
moment have I believed that the American people would
fail to defend the valley. Tidings from far and
near show that the people are now aroused. Almost every good man
and woman is with us. Therefore, be of good cheer. Watch and pray, and fight. – [Narrator] Despite public opinion, the House of Representatives
approved the dam, sending the bill on to the senate. John Muir waited alone
in Martinez for news of the final vote. After eight congressional
hearings, and nearly a decade of wrangling,
the fate of his valley was to be decided at last. He wrote to his daughter… – [John] I think we will win. Anyhow, I’ll be relieved
when it’s settled, for it’s killing me. – [Narrator] At three minutes to midnight on December 6th, 1913,
the senate gave final approval to the Hetch Hetchy
dam by a vote of 43 to 25. – [John] As to the loss of the valley, it’s hard to bear. But in spite of Satan
and company, some sort of compensation must
surely come out of this damn dam damnation. The Phelans, the Pinchots,
and their hirelings will not thrive forever. We may lose this particular fight, but truth and right must prevail at last. – [Narrator] A year after
the senate voted to dam the valley, John Muir was dead. – Muir lost, but in a
larger sense, he won. Because in the years since
the loss of Hetch Hetchy, there has been no comparable intrusion in the national parks. There was such a long debate over that. There was so much blood on
the floor over Hetch Hetchy, that the process has never been repeated. No one has ever seriously proposed making that sort of intrusion into
the national parks since. – Immediately after Hetch
Hetchy, there were a good deal of second thoughts. And one of the responses
of that politically, was the passage of the National
Parks Service Act in 1916. And I believe the man who
introduced that legislation, John Raker, was also the man
who introduced the legislation for the damming of Hetch Hetchy. He, in effect, turned around, and said, “Now that I’ve in effect ruined
part of the national park, “I’m gonna protect and see
this doesn’t happen again.” The National Park Service Act, 1916. – [Narrator] The national
parks are John Muir’s legacy. They are set aside for recreation, their resources permanently untouched. Gifford Pinchot’s
philosophy of conservation lives on in the national forests. Huge tracts of land open to
regulated commercial use. The federal government protects a total of 90 million acres as
official wilderness. Most of that land was
carved out of Gifford Pinchot’s national forests. – Pinchot was certainly
responsible for preserving more wilderness than John Muir ever was. So that although we give
Muir credit for creating in effect the ideology that
we embrace as the values of wilderness, and in that sense
Muir’s been very important, really it was Pinchot who
set aside much of the land that became the wilderness
system of the United States. – [Narrator] A year after
the Hetch Hetchy decision, Gifford Pinchot, at 49,
married Cornelia Bryce. The following year, he became a father. He sailed around the
world, flew his own plane, and camped, hunted, and fished
in every state in the union. He would go on to be a two term governor of Pennsylvania, and a serious contender for the Republican
presidential nomination, one of the most prominent
progressives in the country. (upbeat instrumental music) In 1946, Gifford Pinchot died at 81. – What Pinchot achieved
was the notion that we should live in nature, using nature, recognizing we can not not use nature. But use nature in a way
that is responsible. And it seems to me, that’s
an ethic that modern environmentalists should
embrace as much as they embrace John Muir’s ethic. I very much love John
Muir for his passion, his gentleness, his very warm embrace of what nature could represent. He gave us a poetry
about nature that really no one else has given us
in quite the same way, and we ought to treasure that heritage. The danger if you simply
embrace Muir, though, is that you get the notion
that we can live in nature only by being gentle in nature, only by doing nothing in nature. And no species, no organism,
no living being lives in nature without changing
the world that is around it. – [Narrator] To San
Francisco, Hetch Hetchy is an unqualified success. It still supplies nearly
all the city’s water. No scenic road surrounds it. No one can swim in it. – Pinchot established his Forest Service. He increased its range and
its powers and its budget enormously in the five
years that he ran it. He did a lot of good. But it seems to me he did
not ask hard questions about the premises of it all. Muir was good at the hard questions, what exactly are the
assumptions of the modern age. Are we to redo everything,
are we to subordinate everything to human purposes? Are we to believe in this modern religion, of science and rationalism and technology? Muir asked stubborn
disagreeable questions about those things that we still need to ask. – [John] I often wonder what man will do with the mountains. Will human destruction
work at a higher good, a final beauty? Will a better civilization
come in accord with obvious nature, and all this wild
beauty be set to human poetry and song? What is the human part of
the mountains’ destiny? (upbeat instrumental music)

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