The Oakland Tribune

Ecologists mark birthday of Sierra Club's Brower

By Elvira Viveros, CORRESPONDENT

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Late environmentalist and political activist David Brower would have celebrated his 91st birthday Tuesday.

His dream of seeing young people care for the environment was evident at a birthday celebration July 1 at Oakland's Arrowhead Marsh on the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline.

Sponsored by the Earth Land Institute, Save The Bay and Earth Team, the event was held in homage to the man who was a pioneering force in the environmental movement.

His annual birthday event was a chance for young environmentalists to help transplant native plants and remove garbage along the shoreline.

After the work was done, kids enjoyed cake and ice cream.

Brower served as first executive director of the Sierra Club in 1952 and founded Friends of the Earth in 1969. He also started the League of Conservation Voters.

He helped create nine seashores and national parks in the North Cascades mountain range in Washington, the Northern California redwoods, at Point Reyes, Alaska and on Cape Cod.

When the Grand Canyon was at risk of being dammed by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, he persuaded the Sierra Club to take action and was successful in saving the park.

In his later years, Brower turned to cyberspace, and with his son, Bob, started The Wildness Within Us, a Web site dedicated to conservation efforts and environmental news.

"It was such a blessing to have had him as a father," said Brower. "He cared genuinely about the well-being of the planet."

Aisha Pierre, 13, came to Tuesday's event to celebrate along with the other young people from Berkeley-based South Branch Learning Center, an after school summer program of the YMCA.

"I know he helped our center a lot and I know he helped the environment," she said.

While living in the Midwest in the early 1990s, Cindy Arch of Earth Island Institute learned about Brower's work. After she moved to the Bay Area, she decided to dedicate her time to environmental causes.

"He was very accessible and possessed a vibrant charismatic personality," she said. "I've seen him inspire so many people and our job is to carry on that legacy."

Brower was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and used the media to spread word about the Sierra Club around the world.

"He was ahead of his time and he understood that wetlands are the kidney of the planet and the forest are the lungs," said Arch.