News, notes and follow-ups

« Previous Post | Afterword Home | Next Post »

Ten years ago: David Brower

57352299-04144426 The Sierra Club that David Brower joined in 1933 was a friendly group of outdoors enthusiasts; he became a leader in the outings program. Three decades later, the organization he ultimately led was drawing the wrath of the IRS (for political advocating as a nonprofit) in a fight against putting dams in the Grand Canyon -- a fight the Sierra Club won, obviously. On the flip side, his great regret was acquiescing to the Glen Canyon Dam that created Lake Powell. 

Brower's rise tracked a basic shift in the American posture toward wilderness. He had shepherded a conservationism of leisure into a robust, disciplined political force.

Brower wasn't just an activist or an executive. He was an inventor, an oracle (as his lively Times obituary by John Balzar puts it), a vivid and charismatic prototype of what we now think of as the environmentalist. The obituary places Brower in the company of John Muir, Rachel Carson and the philosopher Aldo Leopold as the "four towering figures" of the 20th century environmental movement. Martin Litton, a fellow crusader, called Brower, "in his time, the soul of the movement to save the Earth."

But his biography isn't all steely passion or first-up-the-mountain triumph. Brower was good at getting fired -- it happened at least three times, including at the Sierra Club and then at Friends of the Earth, which he founded to "make the Sierra Club appear reasonable." And when a friend asked him about a quotation inscribed at the National Aquarium -- "We do not inherit the Earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children" -- Brower didn't recognize the words as his. He later figured out he had uttered them in "an interview that had taken place in a North Carolina bar so noisy I could only marvel that I was heard at all. Possibly, I didn't remember saying it because by then they had me on my third martini."

David Brower was 88 when he died of cancer on Nov. 5, 2000.

-- Michael Owen

Photo: David Brower, climbing a Pinnacles National Monument formation in the Salinas Valley in 1934. Credit: Brower family collection

Post a comment
If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate.
Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Comments (0)

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Profiles of military personnel killed in Iraq
and Afghanistan.


Lives in Pictures »

Search Paid Obituaries »

First Name
Last Name
Powered by ©

Yesterday's Obituaries