David Brower was the most prominent, influential and controversial environmental leader of the second half of the 20th century. He was a visionary, a brilliant publicist, and also prickly and demanding. This and much more comes through clearly in a new book published by Heyday of Berkeley to celebrate Brower’s 100th birthday.
Alas, he isn’t here to celebrate it, having passed away in November 2000, two days before the election that gave us George W. Bush. Perhaps it’s a blessing that he didn’t have to live through that nightmare.
The book is ‘The Wildness Within, Remembering David Brower,‘ a collection of 19 interviews conducted by Dave’s eldest son Ken. Those interviewed all worked closely with Dave Brower, were influenced by him, had their lives changed by him. These include the energy superstar Amory Lovins, the green entrepreneur and author Paul Hawken, the adman Jerry Mander, the steady-state economist Richard Norgaard, former California resources secretary Huey Johnson, former San Francisco Chronicle reporter Hal Gilliam, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, nuclear reactor slayer David Pesonen, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, and several others (including me).
Ken writes long setup pieces before the interview transcripts begin, which makes this not only a portrait of his father but also a series of thumbnail sketches of these individuals who worked so closely with Dave Brower. There’s much to entertain here, and much to contemplate. As Kirkus Reviews said, it’s “a worthy tribute and a good lesson on the conservation movement.”