john muir at a glacierAt  Crossroads at Big Creek,  one of our main objectives is to get people in touch with nature and to share the concepts of ecology— relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.  It’s what we do so I had never much thought about it, but who came up with these concepts? Who figured out the relationship

A helpful librarian (and then a review on NPR’s Science Friday program) steered  me to the book The Invention of Nature Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. 

“Humboldt,”  Wulf writes, “was the first to explain the fundamental functions of the forest for the ecosystem and climate: the trees’ ability to store water and to enrich the atmosphere with moisture, their protection of the soil, and their cooling effect. He also talked about the impact of trees on the climate through their release of oxygen. The effects of the human species’ intervention were already ‘incalculable,’ Humboldt insisted, and could become catastrophic if they continued to disturb the world  so ‘brutally.’ ”
This nineteenth century German scientist demonstrated a new way to look at the world and he influenced many others…. Darwin, Whitman, Thoreau, Poe…. and a man who spent his boyhood and youth in Wisconsin. A man named John Muir.
Muir was inspired by Humbolt’s  “lessons of unity and inter-relationship” as he explored California’s wilderness.  According to Wulf,  “He [Muir] climbed from summit to canyon, from canyon to summit, comparing and measuring—assembling data to understand the creation of the Yosemite Valley.
“Unlike the scientists who at that time conducted the Geological Survey of California and who believed that cataclysmic eruptions had given birth to the valley, Muir was the first to realize that glaciers—slow moving giants of ice—had carved it out over thousands of years.
“Muir began to read the glacial footprints and scars on the rocks. When he found a living glacier, he proved his theory of glacial motion by placing stakes in the ice which moved several inches over a period of forty-six days.”
Muir first confirmed, “It’s because of the glaciers!”  To celebrate this  influential environmentalist who also helped establish the National Park Service and create the Sierra Club,  the Wisconsin State Historical Society created a traveling exhibit called “Wisconsin’s John Muir.”
The Door County Historical Society, Door County Libraries and Crossroads have collaborated to bring the exhibit to Door County. The displays will be housed in the Vignes School of the Heritage Village at Big Creek and in the Lower Level of the Collins Learning Center and will be open to the public from August 31 through September 11.
We’ve helped learners of all ages get in touch with nature by offering  Family Programs throughout the summer.  Our final program of the season will be on Thursday, September 25. “Using a Computer for Tree Identification” will be geared for all ages—not just families.  Following a short hike to gather leaf samples, participants will gain hands-on experience in identifying tree leaves using a computer.

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