Friday, June 15, 2012

California Legend: David Brower

Berkeley, CA – One of the best parts about living in the East Bay is the access to the intellectual capitol of California—Berkeley. It’s always such a treat to be among the mature radicals of the 60s, men and women who once held the lantern lighting the way into our future.  One of these pioneers was the late David Brower, father of the environmental movement.  His son Ken Brower has penned a new book The Wildness Within:Remembering David Brower—written about his legendary father.  I was on-hand and at the edge of my seat listening to my favorite publisher Malcolm Margolin pepper Ken Brower with questions about the book.

            My favorite story was about the dam at Glen Canyon along the Colorado River, the one that broke the heart of David Brower, who on behalf of the Sierra Club fought a protracted battle against the Bureau of Reclamation and in the end lost.  Its reservoir is called Lake Powell or Lake “Foul” as Ken called it and is the second largest artificial lake in the country. The dam, finished in 1966 inundated a natural cathedral of gorges, sheer-cliff sculptured walls of Navajo sandstone that once radiated warm earth tones of tangerine reflecting a rosy golden light. 

            In 2005, five years after the death of his father, Ken finally had the courage to visit Glen Canyon bringing along his own beloved son.  As Ken tells it, he was dismayed at the destruction of the dam especially since the water level was so low and the tell-tale bathtub ring veiled the once exquisite integrity of the canyon walls.  I’m sure there was a lot of head-shaking going on as Ken reflected on the lost beauty of this once magnificent canyon.  His son piped up and told his dad, “It’s still beautiful to me,” affirming that while things get taken away from us, every generation still finds beauty.

Much to my surprise, Ken’s son was in the audience along with his own child who appeared less than a year old, a baby still.  What began as sweet cooing soon turned to fussing and then frustrating squawks.   The audience was patient.   Eventually the baby was escorted out of the venue by a considerate mother.  It dawned on me that this was the great grandchild of David Brower, who this year would have been 100-years-old.   That his generational legacy would continue to have a impact because in our midst was a future environmentalist who had his great-grandfather's gift of making a lot of noise and getting attention, just what the movement needs in an ever-changing world. 

On the cusp of Father's Day, I honor the late, great David Brower and the loving tribute of his son Ken.  Thanks to you both for making the world a better place. 

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