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Newsletter - Animal Writes © sm
26 November 2000 Issue

IN MEMORIAM: DAVID BROWER

David Brower, who helped shape the environmental movement for much of the 20th century, died of cancer at his Berkeley home at the age of 88. He was the Sierra Club's first executive director from 1952 through 1969, building it into one of the nation's most powerful environmental groups.

"His fiery activism helped build and energize the modern environmental movement, rallying countless people to the defense of our precious planet," said President Clinton on the death of David Brower, who died earlier this month. Brower has been hailed by many as the "conscience of our country's environmental movement."

His many accomplishments include heading the Sierra Club, championing the drive to save the Grand Canyon and founding Earth Island Institute and Friends of the Earth.

"The world has lost a pioneer of modern environmentalism," said Sierra Club president Robert Cox. "Like the California redwoods he cherished, David towered above the environmental movement and inspired us to protect our planet."

Brower led Sierra Club efforts to pass the Wilderness Act, block construction of two hydroelectric dams in the Grand Canyon, and create Kings Canyon, North Cascades and Redwoods National Parks and Point Reyes and Cape Cod National Seashores. He persuaded skeptical board members to go ahead with expensive but successful coffee-table books of Ansel Adams' nature photographs.

In 1969, he was forced out of his job as executive director by board members who were unhappy that he made major decisions without consulting them. Brower went on to found Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters and the Earth Island Institute.

Brower resigned from the Sierra Club board this past May -- the third time in the past 15 years -- to underscore his contention that leaders weren't doing enough to save the Earth.

"The world is burning and all I hear from them is the music of violins," Brower said. "The planet is being trashed, but the board has no real sense of urgency. We need to try to save the Earth at least as fast as it's being destroyed."

In an interview with Steve Chapple on Salon.com on June 22,1999, Brower said, "(But) the thing I did best, I guess, is put a little humor in the environmental movement, and the environmental movement is as humorless as the Bible… I'm not putting the Bible down. My favorite line is from Isaiah: 'Thou has multiplied the nation but not increased the joy.' The other line that is perfect for sprawl is, 'Woe unto them who have joined house to house and laid field to field till there be no place where they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth.'

Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader said, "David Brower was the greatest environmentalist and conservationist of the 20th century. He was an indefatigable champion of every worthwhile effort to protect the environment over the last seven decades."

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