I read this essay last month: When Writing About John Muir, I Had to See What He Saw by Donald Worster, December 1, 2008, History News Network. Worster's book, A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir, looks very interesting, but I was particularly struck by this historian's new interest in "nature" (he seems to mean "biological nature," with less excitement about chemistry and physics). I liked this observation:
Writing Muir's biography has given me more insight into this extraordinary man and his times. But getting away from my keyboard and file folders in order to see the places that he explored has been eye opening and soul fulfilling. I have learned more about botany, his favorite subject. Like him, I have fallen in love with trees, tree ferns, grasses, wildflowers, sedges, brambles, cacti--all those plants that turn solar radiation into the food that keeps us and a few million other species alive, through cold and heat, rain and drought. If we were a nation of botanists, all of us in love with plants as Muir was, we would be better environmental citizens. More knowledgeable and caring about the green world, we could survive almost anything.
A nation of botanists--it would certainly be Utopia!