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David Brower’s Letter

by Dave Brower


Chuck McGrady has asked me to repudiate your “Whither the Sierra Club?” article, but, with no knowledge of your sources, I have no basis for correcting any of its data. I think the objecting members of the Board can repudiate these on their own, if they wish. Chuck has also drafted a letter that I will soon sign that calls for renewed civility within the Club. I stand by this call for disagreement without disrespect and would hope to see this idea spread beyond the Club as well. You will not however, soon find me challenging the right of members of the press to express their opinions, simply because they are inflammatory and controversial. I will confirm that you quoted me accurately and I only regret that your kindness fell heavily on me and not at all on some others. You know that I did not ask for your article or contribute to it, though I too have been unsettled by some recent (and some not-so-recent) developments in the Sierra Club. I guess that I am able to forgive more easily than some, including my wife Anne, who has yet to forgive the Gang of ’69 who fired me as Executive Director.

While I am not comfortable with many of your allegations against past, present, and future members of the Board, we all know (or should) that such politicking and backstabbing is not without precedent on the Board of Directors, especially in recent years. In last year’s officer elections, I thought I would win, but lost by 2 votes. I learned from a member of the Board that in that vote, Carl Pope lobbied against me, saying that my election would make him nervous. It shouldn’t have, as I said, I am able to forgive when given the opportunity.

You correctly pointed out that this year’s election brought me more support only in theory. Now, because of an article I did not write, Laura said I should withdraw my candidacy entirely. Even this is a step up from Phil Berry who never wanted me to run in the first place. I have come to expect this from Phil, who has spent the last 30 years ridiculing most of the things I wanted to do, most recently on sparing the National Forests. As usual, his wife is with him on this and when Michele was President, she and Carl Pope juggled the ballot statement for endorsing the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act so that supporters of it had to vote No to endorse. The measure narrowly lost in the member voting. The following year, unfettered by such hooliganism, the measure to call for an end commercial logging on public lands passed two to one. But Phil also ridiculed my being nominated (3 times) for the Nobel Peace Prize, and then I got the Blue Planet Prize (from Japan; $400K), so I won’t fuss too much more.

Which brings us to the state of my presidential campaign today. Chuck says he “has” 9 or 10 votes, which doesn’t leave many for me. I’m not greedy, all I ask is for as many as it takes (8) to give the Sierra Club one last shot before I close the book on my 65 years of service. Whatever the election results, the Club is in dramatic need of a spiritual and structural overhaul that allows our Board to be leaders in helping direct the substance, not merely the procedures of the Sierra Club. I have seen enough of the Club fiddling while the Earth burns to last several lifetimes. Several hundred lifetimes before my own, the prophet Isaiah made a statement that the country’s largest environmental group would do well to address:

“Thou hast multiplied the nation, but not increased the joy.” We have indeed multiplied the membership and the budget, but where is the vision, the passion, the joy? Let’s quit our bitching and get on to creating some joy on the planet.

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