Evaluates Theodore Roosevelt's role in launching modern conservationsim, identifying the contributions of such influences as James Audubon and John Muir while describing how Roosevelt's exposure to natural wonders in his early life shaped his environmental values.
Weighing in at over 900 pages this dense volume keeps the reader intrigued through Roosevelt's boyhood fascination with ornithology and the Roosevelt Museum; his Harvard years and his relationship with his uncle Robert B. Roosevelt; his marriages and children's lives; his 'strenuous life' philosophy and western travels and explorations; his entry into politics and it's formation of his policies of conservationism and land management and sustainability. Through cabinet posts, Governorship of New York state and ultimately the White House.
Theodore (don't call him Teddy!...) proved years ahead of his time in developing the system of National Parks, Forests, Monuments, Bird Reserves that has American citizenry forever in his debt. Saving almost 225 million acres of wilderness and natural treasures to be enjoyed by generations of people into eternity.
A deft politician, he brought into federal service many types of experts on birds, fish, forestry, land use and conservation and other sciences of nature, giving them power to enact governmental policies and help guide America to a place at the forefront of the world's nations in wilderness preservation and governmental ecological planning for the future.
One drawback of the book is it's sheer size. The material described is densely packed on the page and demands to be savored and not skimmed lightly through. This require an amount of commitment as a reader and believe me it's worth it.
You'll come away with a new found sense of respect and admiration for our twenty -sixth president, a true wilderness warrior.
(2014 Week 1 Review)
Tackling the gamut of Roosevelt's passions and experiences is daunting, so perhaps historian Douglas Brinkley was wise to narrow his focus to Roosevelt's lifelong interest in the natural world and his well-known push for conservation in his political career. Even so, Brinkley's book, The Wilderness Warrior, is an 800-page narrative. Through this depth of research, some of which seems to be newly rediscovered, he paints a compelling overall portrait of the 26th President.
Roosevelt's passion for nature began early in his life. Even before he was a teenager, he was identifying birds and collecting (and preserving) specimens for his personal collection. His youthful passion and precocious knowledge brought him into conversation with some leading collectors and naturalists of the period (helped, no doubt, by his father's influence and connections).
Roosevelt's interest in nature yielded a number of things in his life. It led to a lifetime of hunting trips around the world – though when he was president, some of these trips were partially stage-managed to give him every opportunity to make the big kill. As part of these trips, though, Roosevelt not only brought back game to stuff but cataloged his observations of bird and animal life. This led to his authoring several books and articles on the animals and birds of North America.
Fully half of the book details Roosevelt's actions as a conservationist president, establishing bird sanctuaries, forests, parks and monuments across the country, but especially in the American West. Often, Roosevelt faced significant opposition to establishing and policing these new federal lands – indeed, some of the rangers were killed by poachers and loggers.
Overall, Brinkley offers a deep appreciation for Roosevelt's legacy in land management (which is why he offers such compelling accounts of the obstacles faced in establishing the conservation system). He has a good eye for some of the contradictions in Roosevelt's character – the naturalistic components of the “Rough Riders” expedition are both amusing and mind-boggling – but is at his best in showing how Roosevelt's lifelong passion for the natural world significantly impacted his influential life. It was not a hobby (though one wonders if Roosevelt could have any aspect of his life that was “only” a hobby), but a motivating purpose from his earliest years.
Felt like an overlong Publish or Perish, over 40 hours, or nearly 1000 pages, and drily academic in tone. Not well done, I was extremely disappointed.
The narrator was adequate.
Despite his genuine reverence for nature TR was a vigorous hunter throughout his life. The author notes that TR's hunts always included a scientific aspects as he wrote on his observations for the naturalist community and collected specimens for museums.
You get a good sense of the driving force of TR's personality and his energy and exuberance in his dealings with friends and foes. There is little mention of the other political and diplomatic endeavors during his presidency, only enough to keep the story line moving along.
I picked up this book in the visitors' center of the Muir Woods during a recent vacation. The woods visually and spiritually affirm how valuable to all generations was TR's commitment to nature preservation.