During his lifetime, John Burroughs published some two dozen books and numerous essays in a simple, charming, and honest style that made his writings favorites in the classroom.
Greatly influenced by Emerson, Whitman and Thoreau, Burroughs did more than any other writer to establish the American nature essay as a literary genre. Though his forays into the political battles of conservation were rare, he wielded great influence over the direction of the early environmental movement through his writings, including Signs and Seasons, Ways of Nature, and The Breath of Life.
In his later years, Burroughs was viewed as the nation's leading nature writer. Presidents and scientists, journalists and school children made the pilgrimage to "Slabsides," his retreat near West Park, New York.
"We can use our scientific knowledge to improve and beautify the earth," Burroughs wrote in 1912, "or we can use it to ...poison the air, corrupt the waters, blacken the face of the country, and harass our souls with loud and discordant noises, [or]...we can use it to mitigate or abolish all these things." In a country that was already the leading industrial power of the world, John Burroughs realized the importance of establishing a strong tradition of conservation in America.
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