“It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Last winter I read Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life and found myself wanting to know more about TR and Gifford Pinchot. The Wilderness Warrior definitely filled in some of the blanks left by A Strenuous Life regarding TR’s environmental policy. Like The Quiet World, Brinkley’s bias towards seeing TR as a hero for the wilderness movement was evident (as was his opinion that wilderness should be prioritized over commercial interests). I am glad that I had read a more comprehensive biography of TR first.
In many ways Wilderness Warrior was a much easier read than The Quiet World—because it focused on just TR, it jumped around less in time and place than The Quiet World did. As with all biographies, I wonder just how complete a picture I’m getting of the person I’m reading about—how do you condense a life down to a book?
Wilderness Warrior was full of anecdotes about TR that I hadn’t heard before. (I meant to make notes of these to share with you all to illustrate the awesomeness of the book but I didn’t…oops.) What was most amazing though, is the sheer number of sites that TR helped to preserve in this country. He created or enlarged 150 National Forest areas. He created 51 Federal Bird Reservations. He created 18 National Monuments using the Antiquities Act of 1906; including the Grand Canyon and Mt. Olympus (later, my favorite national park: Olympic).
The Wilderness Warrior was another excellent read. I’m looking forward to the next installment in his Environmental History of America series!
The Quiet World details the men and women who fought to save Alaska’s wild places from extractive industry (mining, timber, over fishing and hunting). The author, Douglas Brinkley, is clearly a strong environmentalist. There is little sympathy in this book for multiple use or even responsible extractive industry (except for maybe on the part of Native Alaskans). I was able to deal with this bias just fine because, well, it’s just like my own: the short term cost of keeping wilderness wild pays dividends beyond what we can imagine in the future.
The book introduced me to lots of new (to me) names in Alaska’s environmental history but I was most excited to learn more about Gifford Pinchot, William O. Douglas, and Teddy Roosevelt. (Teddy was the focus of Brinkley’s 2009 book The Wilderness Warriorwhich is going to be one of my next reads!) I found the end of the book a little weak, just stopping with the early 60’s prior to the adoption of the Wilderness Act of 1964, but that was made clear when I read the acknowledgements: the author is writing Silent Spring Revolution: John F. Kennedy, Rachel Carson, Stewart Udall, and the Modern Environmental Movement 1961-1964. Brinkley is conceiving of TheWilderness Warrior, The Quiet World, and Silent Spring Revolution as being the beginning of a complete series of American Environmental History.
The book was well written, covered a lot of ground, and gave a great background on how we managed to have so much of Alaska preserved in various federal agencies. It also made clear how precarious that protection can be.