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The “Madness” of John Muir: Conservation Leadership as a Lifestyle

This post originally appeared on the FedEx blog

"A man needs a little madness, or else... he never dares cut the rope to be free" - Zorba 

Theodore_roosevelt_yosemite2It seems as though a little madness could very well be good for you. Consider for a moment the brilliance and ingenuity sparked by some of the world’s most influential individuals--Michelangelo, Einstein, Gandhi, Frida Kahlo; certainly, their unconventional thinking and daring action have served humanity well.
And yet, all too often, we are regrettably too timid, too uncertain or too complacent to follow our passion and challenge what is.

With the recent publication of our latest FedEx Global Citizenship Report, it only seems appropriate that we revisit the accomplishments of John Muir, a founding father of the American environmental movement.  Muir’s legacy, launched over a century ago, continues to serve as an important source of inspiration for today’s citizens, business leaders and communities at large.

But, who exactly was John Muir? And what can FedEx learn from him?
John Muir, a Scottish born advocate and US naturalized citizen, became a leading American environmental pioneer of the twentieth century.  

If you’ve ever set foot in a US National Park or enjoyed peering at a classic Ansel Adams photo of Yosemite, then you most likely owe John Muir a heartfelt thank you.

Like many of us, John Muir’s life initially followed traditional lines; he lived a traditional childhood upbringing, first in Scotland and later in the US. And by the age of 22, he had enrolled at the University of Wisconsin.

Yet deep within Muir lived a profound yearning he simply could not quell. 

By 1867, John Muir’s life took a decisive turn; he abandoned his daily routine to pursue a life in communion with nature, “I will follow my instincts, and be myself for good or ill.”  John Muir wandered much of the United States; he uncovered Indiana to Florida by foot, ventured across the Panama Canal and journeyed through Alaska exploring the wild in solitary delight. It was Yosemite Valley however that captured a special place in his heart.  

Through sheer resilience and relentless dedication, John Muir emerged as a public champion of environmental issues. Founding the Sierra Club in 1892, Muir touched the consciousness of American citizens across all walks of life including former US President Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, the American President was reportedly so captivated by Muir’s knowledge and wisdom that on one occasion he even snubbed political elites to camp with John Muir at Yosemite.

John Muir stands today as an icon of bravery and principle; a man readily recognized for planting the first seeds of the environmental preservation movement into American soil. There is certainly much to learn from this man and the philosophy he lived by.
In the spirit of John Muir’s accomplishments and in light of the publication of our latest Global Citizenship Report, I hope that we can draw inspiration from Muir’s commitment and lifetime of achievements. And I hope and trust we will continue to execute comprehensive sustainability plans that raise the bar high across the corporation in line with the enduring legacy we wish to create as employees, as a global business leader, and as responsible citizens.

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