By COLLEEN VALLES
SAN FRANCISCO – David Brower, who transformed the Sierra Club from a small hiking group into a major political force during a career of environmental activism that spanned nearly 70 years, died of cancer at his Berkeley home Sunday night. He was 88.
“The environmental movement has lost a champion, and I have lost a dear and valued friend,” Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader said today of Brower’s death. Nader called Brower “the greatest environmentalist and conservationist of the 20th century.”
Brower, a Sierra Club member since 1933, served as the club’s first executive director from 1952 through 1969, building it into one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups with 77,000 members.
He led a campaign to block construction of dams in the Grand Canyon and persuaded skeptical board members to go ahead with the expensive, but successful, “coffee table” books of Ansel Adams’ photographs of park and wilderness areas, which awakened environmental leanings in thousands of readers.
He was forced out of his job as executive director in 1969 by board members unhappy that he made major decisions without consulting them. But he went on to found Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters.
He resigned from the board of Friends of the Earth after a battle for control in 1986. He also founded the Earth Island Institute.
Brower resigned from the Sierra Club board this past May – the third time in the past 15 years he had done that – to underscore his contention that leaders weren’t doing enough to save the Earth.
“The world is burning and all I hear from them is the music of violins,” Brower said. “The planet is being trashed, but the board has no real sense of urgency. We need to try to save the Earth at least as fast as it’s being destroyed.”
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