Dave Brower: Tireless Environmental Activist

An interview with Dave Brower, a tireless environment activist who served as the Sierra Club's first executive director before founding Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters.

| May/June 1973

  • Dave Brower Collage
    The tireless environmental activist David R. Brower speaking at an alternative energy conference in Cape May, NJ.

  • Dave Brower Collage

David R. Brower, who says that he has had a love for the Earth's wild places for as long as he can remember, began volunteer work for the Sierra Club 33 years ago ... and the enthusiasm, dedication, and energy he poured into that conservation group's projects led the organization to appoint him as the Sierra Club's first Executive Director in 1952. It was a wise move. During the next 17 years under Brower's leadership, the club's membership swelled from 7,000 to 77,000 and became a major voice in the environmental movement.  

It would seem, however, that the very growth Brower created eventually led to his ouster from the conservation organization that he so dearly loved. As the Sierra Club became bigger and bigger, it was forced — as are all large operations — to become a little more careful, to do things "by the book" ... to have less and less patience with mad, impetuous Dave Brower, the very man whose whirlwind vitality had attracted so many members to the club in the first place.  

It was a little like the settling of Dave's beloved West all over again: The mountain men's wild tales of extravagant wealth lured their less daring cousins across the Rockies ... and once those pedestrian relatives had built their stores and schools and churches ... well, the sheriff, mayor, and city council began to get a little nervous every time a buckskin shirt walked down the street. So they called a town meetin' and voted the mountain men out. The new, little metropolis may well have been the better for it, but ...  

David Brower was voted out of the Sierra Club in 1969 and, luckily for the planet, immediately began founding or helping to found Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, and a number of related environmental organizations. Friends of the Earth, although still relatively small and young, has already been credited with — among other accomplishments — being the major force in the defeat of the SST.  

On March 24th, 1973, The Sun People — a small but extremely impressive ecology group — held an alternative energy conference in Cape May, New Jersey. Bucky Fuller, U.S. Senator Mike Gravel and many other well-known and obscure solar, wind, and water power experimenters, experts, and promoters were there. David Brower addressed the gathering on the subject of atomic energy ... and why, as an environmentalist, he is appalled at the prospects of introducing on a wide scale this "solution" to the coming energy crunch.  

Some MOTHER EARTH NEWS people attended the Cape May conference and, in the wee hours of the morning, finally cornered the tireless environmental activist Dave Brower long enough to interview him. It should be noted that, although Mr. Brower speaks with impressive authority and holds definite views on many environmental subjects, he always seems to deliver his thoughts in an easy, warm, human and lighthearted manner. It's impossible not to like the man and just as impossible to keep a straight face when he peppers — as he constantly does — his remarks with humorous and sometimes hilarious offhand observations. The following interview, you should be warned, does not at all capture the real Dave Brower.  

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