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David Brower (1912 -2000)

- From the Earth Island Institute
Monday July 01, 2002

David Ross Brower was born in Berkeley on July 1, 1912. He dropped out of the University of California in his sophomore year, joined the Sierra Club two years later and by 1938 was engaging in conservation battles, be- 

coming a member of the club’s board in 1941. 

After serving in the U.S. Army’s famed 10th Mountain Division in Europe during World War II, he returned home and eventually became the Sierra Club’s first executive director, serving in that position from 1952 to 1969, increasing the club’s membership from 2,000 to 77,000 and founding the Sierra Club Foundation. He was forced to resign as director in 1969, but would be re-elected to the Club’s board of directors in 1983, 1986, 1995, and 1998. 

A few months after his resignation from the Sierra Club, Brower founded Friends of the Earth (FOE), the first international network of environmental organizations which now has independent affiliates in 68 countries, and the League of Conservation Voters. In 1982, he founded the Earth Island Institute, Brower Fund, and the biennial Fate and Hope of the Earth conferences, which continue his commitment to achieve “peace on – and with – the Earth.” 

In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, he led delegations to Siberia at the request of the Soviet government to aid in the protection and restoration of Lake Baikal. In 1994, he co-founded the Ecological Council of the Americas, a network of regional organizations focusing on problems of environmental and economic integration. He also developed plans for a National Biosphere Reserve System, and a National Land Service (to replace the current Bureau of Land Management) with a new mission of protecting and restoring public and private lands in the U.S. David Brower was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times: in 1978, 1979, and – with Prof. Paul Ehrlich – in 1998. In October 1998, he was awarded Japan’s Blue Planet Prize, the richest environmental award in the world, for his environmental accomplishments. In 1999, he co-founded the Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment, the famous “blue-green” coalition of labor unions and environmental activists working on campaigns from trade policy to renewable energy. In November 2000, David Brower died at the age of 88. 

He had a profound impact on the state of America’s wild lands by helping to create many of the country’s most treasured national parks and seashores – in Kings Canyon, the North Cascades, Great Basin, Alaska, Cape Cod, Fire Island, the Golden Gate, and Point Reyes – and to protect Olympic National Park and the San Gorgonio Wilderness. He played a major role in keeping dams out of Dinosaur National Monument, the Yukon, and the Grand Canyon, and in establishing the National Wilderness Preservation System and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, which resulted in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

But more than anything else, David Brower was a lifelong wilderness enthusiast. He made 70 first ascents in Yosemite and the western United States in summer and winter, participated in a historic attempt on Mount Waddington in Canada, led the first ascent of New Mexico’s Shiprock (1939), and trekked to 18,000 feet in the Himalaya below Mount Everest (1976) and to Thyangboche (1984). Between 1939 and 1956, he led some 4,000 people into the remote wilderness as part of the Sierra Club’s Wilderness Outings Program. 

David Brower especially liked what Russell Train, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality in the Nixon administration, said about him: “Thank God for Dave Brower. He makes it so easy for the rest of us to be reasonable.”