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David Brower, Environmental Champion, Dies at 88
Fair Use Statement

Source: ENS

David Brower, Environmental Champion, Dies at 88

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 Awards.

"We have sadly lost the most inspirational leader of efforts to protect and restore the Earth," said Dave Phillips, executive director of Earth Island Institute.

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 systems."

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 worse."

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 planet." "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 concluded.

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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