David Brower, Environmental Champion, Dies at 88
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David Brower, Environmental Champion, Dies
By Cat Lazaroff
BERKELEY, California, November 6, 2000 (ENS) - David Brower, a
man applauded by conservationists around the world as a true
environmental champion, died Sunday night at his home in Berkeley.
Brower, 88, worked up until his death to support issues near and dear
to his heart - including this year's closely fought presidential race.
Brower was the first executive director of the
Sierra Club, a position he held from 1952
through 1969. During his tenure as executive
director, the organization's membership rose
from 2,000 to 77,000 members.
The Club's membership elected him to three
year terms on the Board of Directors in 1941,
1983, 1986, 1995 and 1998.
But earlier this year, Brower broke ranks with the Sierra Club over
that group's endorsement of Vice President Al Gore in the presidential
race. Brower said the Club should have supported Green Party
candidate Ralph Nader instead.
"Al Gore talks tough about protecting the environment, but whenever
money and political dealers ask him to, Gore uses his power to hurt
working families and the earth," Brower said. "Gore seems to think
that because he wrote about how to save the planet in 'Earth in the
Balance,' he can get away with the same cheap and short sighted
political behavior he criticizes in his book."
Today, Nader mourned the death of his friend and supporter, just two
days before Tuesday's general election.
"David Brower was the greatest environmentalist and conservationist
of the 20th Century," said Nader. "He was an indefatigable champion
of every worthwhile effort to protect the environment over the last
seven decades. His death is a tremendous loss."
Brower was seen by both friends and foes alike as the conscience of
the modern environmental movement. His life and environmental
passions became the subject of a landmark book by acclaimed writer
John McPhee, titled "Encounters with the Archdruid."
Today, the Sierra Club's president, Dr. Robert Cox, expressed sorrow
at the loss of Brower. "The world has lost a pioneer of modern
environmentalism," said Cox. "We will miss the Archdruid for both his
vision and his courage."
"In the last decades of his life, David's passion became restoring the
earth from the damage people had wrought," Cox continued. "As a
new generation of environmentalists picks up David's mantle and
practices what he preached, restoration well may become David's
greatest and longest lasting legacy."
At an interview in March
with ENS, Brower talked
about restoring not only
the physical environment,
but also human attitudes
toward the planet.
"We should rebuild our
respect for the Earth,
because as far as I know none of us can afford to go anywhere else,
and none of us should want to," Brower told ENS at a meeting of the
Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Oregon. Brower was
the keynote speaker at the conference. "We should take better care
of what we've got."
Brower's career ranged from climbing some of the Sierra's most
formidable peaks, to successfully fighting to stop dams in Dinosaur
National Monument and in Grand Canyon National Park, to leading
environmentalists to re-think support of nuclear power.
After leaving the Sierra Club's directorship in 1969, Brower founded
Friends of the Earth, a more radical conservation group.
"Brower was the seminal environmental leader for our nation during
the last half of the 20th century," said Dr. Brent Blackwelder,
president of Friends of the Earth. "He spearheaded successful battles
to protect some of America's greatest natural areas. He challenged
big polluters and questioned unsound new technology."
"Brower demonstrated great foresight as early on he called attention
to urgent global environmental problems," Blackwelder continued.
"People all over our planet owe David a huge debt of gratitude for all
he did to safeguard humanity from a toxic future and to give us a
legacy of unspoiled forests, rivers, mountains and meadows for our
enjoyment and inspiration."
In 1982, Brower founded the Earth Island Institute, an umbrella
organization supporting and incubating innovative environmental
projects around the world. Earth Island Institute, based in San
Francisco, is the home of the Brower Fund and the Brower Youth
"We have sadly lost the most inspirational leader of efforts to protect
and restore the Earth," said Dave Phillips, executive director of Earth
An avid mountain climber and skier,
Brower served in the 10th Mountain
Division during World War II and pioneered
70 first ascents in an outdoor adventure
career that took him around the globe.
Brower led campaigns to establish nine
new national parks and seashores
including Point Reyes, the North Cascades
and the Redwoods, and helped gain
passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964,
which protects millions of acres of public
lands in pristine condition.
He created the genre of "exhibit format" books of exquisite outdoor
photography, always tied to a conservation theme, and pioneered
the practice of running full page environmental campaign
advertisements in newspapers.
Perhaps Brower's best-known accomplishment was his success during
the 1960s in leading a Sierra Club campaign to block two
hydroelectric dams proposed for the Grand Canyon. Brower took out
full page ads in the "New York Times" equating the proposal to
flooding the Sistine Chapel.
Brower's insistence on taking bold stands for environmental
protection and his leadership where others dared not go inspired
several generations of activists. He was nominated three times for
the Nobel Peace Prize, and received numerous awards throughout his
life, including 1998's Blue Planet Award.
Most recently, Brower founded
the Global Conservation,
Preservation, and Restoration
(CPR) Service to, in his words,
"help catalyze the restoration
of natural and human
Brower's message on the current state of the Earth were at once dire
and optimistic and are reflected in his favorite quotes. Of his own
career, he paraphrased CA Senator Tom Hayden: "All I have been
able to do in my career is to slow the rate at which things get
But he urged environmentalists to heed the words of Goethe:
"Anything you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has
genius, power, and magic in it."
In his March interview with ENS, Brower talked about his dedication
to a new environmentalism based on justice for the planet.
"I was playing around with the initials of j-u-s-t-i-c-e this morning,"
Brower told ENS. "J is for joy. Let's have a little bit of joy in what
we're doing," Brower advised. "U is for useful. S is for sane. We
haven't been very sane lately in what we've been doing to the
"T is for timely. And you know, we're not
getting enough things done on time," Brower
continued. "I is for intuition. I don't have to
remind the women of that, but I have to
remind the men of that. And intuition is far
older in our time on this earth than our
judgment. Species of all kinds needed to
know what to do intuitively. It was just a
basic knowledge. We have it; we just don't
let it out."
"C is for caring. E has got to be ecologically
sound or none of the rest will work. So let's
try making justice the most important thing
that's happening on Earth for the rest of this century, and I'll be
checking in on you to see how well you do - wherever I am," Brower
Brower, who died of complications related to cancer, is survived by
his wife Anne Brower; his four children Kenneth Brower, Robert
Brower, Barbara Brower, and John Brower; and his three grandchildren
Anne Katherine Olsen, Rosemary Olsen, and David C. Brower.
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