Book Review: Leave It As Is
My decision to join the service right out of high school probably had as much to do with Teddy Roosevelt as it did the Marine Corps recruiter. As a kid, I read TR’s “Man in the Arena ”speech and copied it in thick pencil lines onto notebook paper and read and reread it until I had it memorized. I swore then that I would never stand with “those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
It’s obvious from David Gessner’s new book, Leave It as It Is that he shares my admiration for Teddy that borders on obsession. The title references TR’s 1903 speech given at the Grand Canyon where he implored the gathered crowd to, “Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it.” With these words, Teddy cautioned against the rapid westward industrialization bent on gobbling up the seemingly endless supply of natural resources in the name of expansion and modernization.
But, this book is more than another biography of the former president. It is part bio, part memoir as Gessner and his nephew retrace parts of TR’s campaign route, and part environmental wake-up call. But first and foremost, it’s a great read. Gessner is a storyteller. If you could read with your eyes closed, you might imagine yourself seated by a small fire of juniper and sagebrush in the Badland’s vast plains of stone and light, drinking beer, and listening to him tell you his story.
Today the idea of POTUS pausing his campaign to spend three nights camping in Yosemite is unthinkable, but Teddy did, and his trip with John Muir could be considered one of the most impactful expeditions in conservation history. It led to protection for not only Yosemite, but the establishment of five other national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, 150 national forests, and spurred the establishment of the Antiquities Act which has been used to preserve historically and culturally important sites. This was the book’s ah-ha moment for me, the call to action.
Most who will read this review have worn the uniform of our nation (it counts even if it wasn’t Dress Blues). This book made me reflect on that commitment and that obligation. In the words of any John Wick assassin when questioned by the High Table, “I have served, I will be of service.” Yes, you have served your country, but can’t and shouldn’t we now look to serve our land? In this time of suicidal silos of partisan pandering, we should be able to find the common ground that Gessner urges for in our common ground, the sand of our coasts, the red clay of the south, the metamorphic rock of the Appalachians, the black bottomland, the shale and scrub that are the 640 million acres of public lands in the U.S. and the countless other acres that deserve protection.
As I see it, environmentalism isn’t “precious and crunchy,” it is a component of the oath that we all swore, and an obligation that we can’t afford to shrug off—This isn’t a Lib-tard vs Cuckservative issue. H.R. 2435 is a bill currently before Congress which will require the Department of Veterans Affairs to establish the Task Force on Outdoor Recreation for Veterans, “To report on and make recommendations regarding the use of public lands or other outdoor spaces for medical treatment and therapy for veterans.”
As someone who enjoys rucking up and spending quiet time on the trails of our National Parks and public lands, I recognize the recuperative and restorative value of the wild. As John Muir said, "Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." Whether you hike, bike, hunt, fish, paddle, or camp it falls on us to fight to preserve the lands set aside for us as Americans and defend them against the encroachment of roads, civilization, and extractive industries.
I join Gessner in urging you to “embrace a muscular environmentalism.” Recognize that you share in the 640 million acres of public birthright. Enjoy it, fight for it, protect it, vote for it, and ensure that as Teddy said, we “keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you….”
I give Leave It as It Is ♠️♠️♠️♠️.
Buy it now from https://www.indiebound.org/ Don't be a douche, Amazon has enough money.
Written By John Dailey