Each of us can make a difference if we step up and try our best / Becoming Planet Citizens
David Brower and Friends of the Earth
Brower founded Friends of the Earth (FOE) in 1969, soon after resigning as executive director of the Sierra Club. The move was timely, as FOE was positioned to grow with the burst of environmental concern generated by the first Earth Day in April 1970. FOE also benefited from the publicity generated by a series of articles in The New Yorker by John McPhee, later published as Encounters with the Archdruid, which recounted Brower's confrontations with a geologist and mining engineer, a resort developer, and Floyd Dominy, the director of the Bureau of Reclamation. Brower so enjoyed being called the Archdruid that he later used the term in his e-mail address.
FOE set up its headquarters in San Francisco, and opened an office in Washington, D.C.. Brower soon spun off two new organizations from the FOE Washington staff: the League of Conservation Voters in 1970 and the Environmental Policy Center in 1971. Brower's international contacts led to the founding of FOE International in 1971, a loose federation of sister organizations in some forty-four countries. Brower also started a publications program at FOE, which had initial success with The Environmental Handbook in the wake of Earth Day, but then began to lose money.
Although Brower's background was in the wilderness preservation wing of the conservation movement, he quickly led FOE to take on many of the issues raised by the new environmentalists. FOE campaigned against the Alaska pipeline, the supersonic transport airplane (SST), nuclear power, and the use of the defoliant Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. After Ronald Reagan was elected President in 1980, FOE led the opposition to Interior secretary James G. Watt's efforts to sell and lease public lands in the West and develop land adjacent to the National Parks. Brower retired as executive director of FOE on its tenth anniversary in 1979, but continued as chairman of its board of directors. FOE's growing debt and tension between Washington lobbying and grassroots action led to a crisis between Brower and a majority of the board that recalled his conflict with the Sierra Club board. Facing staff cuts in 1984, Brower appealed over the board directly to the membership for emergency contributions. He was removed from the board for insubordination, but was reinstated when he threatened a lawsuit. In 1985 the board voted to close the San Francisco office and move to Washington, D.C.. A referendum of the membership supported the board majority, and Brower resigned in 1986 to work through his Earth Island Institute.
Later years with Earth Island Institute
Brower had incorporated Earth Island Institute in 1982. After FOE moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C., in 1986, Brower developed Earth Island as a loosely structured incubator for innovative projects in ecology and social justice. Although he chaired the board of directors, Brower stayed in the background as co-directors David Philips and John Knox ran the organization. Projects were required to bring in their own funding, and often went their own way once well-established. Groups formed under Earth Island's umbrella include the Rainforest Action Network, the Environmental Project on Central America (EPOCA), and many others. Freed from administrative worries and budget controversies, Brower was able to continue to travel, speak and work on many of his long-standing concerns. In addition to his returning to the Sierra Club board for two separate terms, he also served on the Board of Directors for Native Forest Council from 1988 until his death in 2000.
A supporter of Ralph Nader, Brower flew to Denver in June 2000 for the Green Party convention. The day before he died, Brower cast his absentee ballot for Nader. He died at his home in Berkeley, California, on November 5, 2000.
A monument, Spaceship Earth, was erected in his honor at Kennesaw State University. The intention is that the monument will serve as a permanent reminder to future generations about the delicate nature of our planet.
Modern Environmental Movement
SJS / GreenPolicy Siterunner: Back in the 1990s, David, Danny Moses (ed of Sierra Club bks) and I worked together to run a Green Education group with Earth Island... David became a strong supporter of the Green Party platform and attended our presidential nominating convention in Denver in 2000 where our founding platform was passed...
David Brower was one of the great environmental visionaries, and climbers, of our era.