Only One Earth--In Memoriam:
David R. Brower
Dave Brower died on Sunday November 5, 2000.
Dave looms large in my small pantheon of heroes. Outside of
no-one has affected my life and political work more than Dave.
not just an inspiring character. He was larger than life. He
amazing charisma. He climbed mountains. He began and left major
organizations before most of us were even born. He took on the
issues. Sometimes--as in the case of nuclear power--he for the
won these battles.
For all his boundless energy in challenging powers-that-be,
were not simply his own. His most important gift was how he motivated
other people to enter into the endless fray of politics.
This is how I remember him moving people to action.
First, he always maintained his clarity of vision. Sometimes,
simplified reality in ways that maddened his friends and allies
as well as
his adversaries. But he always kept the prize held high and in
us: the conservation, preservation, and restoration of our Only
If a strategy failed that test, then it was flawed. No-one could
accuse Dave of having sold out!
Second, he was a gifted writer and speaker. He had a way of
essence of an issue, and reducing it to an absolute minimum of
poetic writing matched the beauty of wilderness that he aimed
forever in reality. No wonder that millions were moved by his
Third, he believed in the freshness of youth. He did this
with total and
unconditional love for the people he worked with, especially
people. Given such trust, they rarely failed to hold true to
even if they diverged from Dave over the specifics of strategy.
result, he built global networks of activists and advocates before
global had been invented in political terms. He did this before
Internet, before faxes, before international travel became almost
before international phone calls were easy to make. People literally
to the ends of the planet with and for Dave.
Fourth, following an ecological logic, he backed endless diversity.
best way to get a job done was to let someone else do it, Dave's
never in the way. He knew that some of his students needed to
and build their own institutions in order to be effective. He
supportive if asked; never obstructive; and always available.
willing to lend his giant stature to tiny causes. He did so even
knew it might hurt his standing with established orders.
One famous American writer once called Dave an Arch Druid--implying
was willing to sacrifice people on the altar of nature. This
way of saying that Dave was an ideologue, unbending, uncompromising,
could hurt people. There's an element of truth in this characterization.
But where Dave exceeded this caricature was in the intensity
commitment to the ecological basis of human existence. He was
that when humans shred the fabric of natural systems, they pay
the price, a
terrible price, and one that will fall mostly on future generations.
knew that once humans wreck an ecosystem, they can never recreate
held that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and is
reach of human comprehension and management. In this sense, he
nature as a truth and wisdom that dwelled beyond the reach of
comprehension, and fathomable only in a religious sense.
Thus, he was intensely conservative, a natural-born reactionary,
of locale, ethos, and ecosystem at every level. But he recognized
Earth is home to all people and that all people deserve to be
fed, to be secure and peaceful. This simple conclusion led him
movements within the United States for environmental justice;
internationally, for global social and economic justice. He promoted
radical activism in all human institutions to ensure that the
needs of all
people on the planet are fulfilled. He knew that only this outcome
withstand the test of time, and the test of his vision: the conservation,
preservation, and restoration of our Only One Earth.
I am glad that Dave made it to the twenty first century. We
the new millenium with much more of the Earth intact than would
happened without Dave.
I still remember standing with him in 1975 out on the plains
Nairobi as dusk fell. We had spent the day inside the offices
of the United
Nations Environment Programme HQ which was setting up shop in
only UN agency south of the equator. Together, we watched the
over the Ngong Hills and the Rift Valley. Vast rivers of brilliant
began to stud the black inkiness of the tropical night sky.
As we stood there, he told me that the fate of the planet
was in my hands.
Like so many others, I believed him. I still do. It's hard to
that he's gone and that now, each of us has to carry the planet
future rather than relying on Dave to be there when we need him.
Dr. Peter Hayes, Co-Executive Director
The Nautilus Institute * firstname.lastname@example.org
1831 Second St., Berkeley, CA 94710-1902 USA
(510) 644-9296 (direct) * www.nautilus.org