Preservationist, naturalist, author, explorer, activist, scientist, farmer. John Muir (4/21/1838 – 12/24/1914) was all these things and more. Nearly a century after his death, this Scottish American is remembered and revered as the father of the environmental movement and the founder of the Sierra Club, the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. American Masters continues its 25 th anniversary season with John Muir in the New World , airing Monday, April 18, 2011 at 9 p.m. on Eight, Arizona PBS , in honor of Earth Day (4/22) and John Muir Day (4/21). Explaining his impact then and now, this 90-minute documentary delves into Muir's life and influences with reenactments filmed in high definition throughout the majestic landscapes he visited: Wisconsin, Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada, the Alhambra Valley of California, and the glaciers of Alaska. Placing our nation's most important natural assets in a cultural and social context, John Muir in the New World is a timely reminder of America's unique and, ultimately, threatened eco-systems.
“It's incredible what we owe to John Muir and, in our era of Katrina and oil spills, how very much we should revere his message today,” says Susan Lacy, series creator and executive producer of American Masters , a seven-time winner of the Emmy ® Award for Outstanding Primetime Non-Fiction Series.
A lover and champion of the American wilderness, Muir believed that it was our responsibility as citizens to protect our natural surroundings. Through his tireless advocacy and his writings, Muir helped preserve the Yosemite Valley, led the fight against the Hetch Hetchy dam – the first nationwide battle of the environmental movement – and was the force behind the creation of the National Park Service. John Muir in the New World explores the influence of his Calvinist father, Daniel; the writings of Alexander von Humboldt and Ralph Waldo Emerson; his friend and mentor Jeanne Carr; marriage to Louie Strentzel; and friendship and work for Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of The Century Magazine ; to illustrate how Muir developed his ideas about nature and became a respected scientist, writer and “publicist for nature” during a critical period in U.S. history.
Emmy-winning Director/Producer/Writer Catherine Tatge conveys Muir's passion for and spiritual bond with nature through reverential reenactments of his life-changing journeys: his 1,000-mile walk from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, his years living in the Yosemite Valley wilderness and climbing the Sierras, his continued study of glaciers in Alaska, and his life as a farmer with his family in Martinez and the Alhambra Valley. Mountaineer Joe Butler portrays the young Muir; photographer and mountaineer Howard Weamer, the winter caretaker of Yosemite's Ostrander Lake Ski Hut, portrays the older Muir; and Patsy Fulhorst, a school teacher in Yosemite, avid trekker, naturalist and hiker, portrays Jeanne Carr.
“I enlisted a team of experts to ensure the accuracy and integrity of everything we captured on film, right down to every plant specimen and bird call,” explains Tatge about the exhaustive research that went into making John Muir in the New World . Among them, Emmy-winning sound recordist and international acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton provided the film's natural sounds based on Muir's Yosemite writings, which were integrated with the original score by Garth Neustadter, and Bob Roney a.k.a. “Yosemite Bob” served as a consultant and guide. Narrated by Jane Alexander, the film also features readings from Muir's journals and articles, as well as interviews with Allison Chin, President of the Sierra Club (2008-2010), environmental historians, scholars, and others.
About Eight, Arizona PBS
Eight, Arizona PBS specializes in the education of children, in-depth news and public affairs, lifelong learning, and the celebration of arts and culture -- utilizing the power of noncommercial television, the Internet, educational outreach services, and community-based initiatives. The PBS station began broadcasting from the campus of Arizona State University on January 30, 1961. Now more than 80 percent of Arizonans receive the signal through a network of translators, cable and satellite systems. With more than 1 million viewers each week, Eight consistently ranks among the most-viewed public television stations per capita in the country. Arizonans provide more than 60 percent of the station's annual budget.
Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University.