Kenneth Brower's father, David Brower, is widely regarded as one of the greatest environmental activists of his time. The elder Brower became the first executive director of the Sierra Club in 1952 and he spearheaded many of the Club's famous wilderness campaigns. He also founded several environmental organizations, including Friends of the Earth, the League of Conservation Voters, and Earth Island Institute.
To mark the 100th anniversary of the legendary activist's birth, Kenneth Brower put together The Wildness Within: Remembering David Brower (Heyday, 2012), a collection of interviews with some of the people whose lives and careers were changed by his father.
Sierra: What was the impetus behind writing The Wildness Within?
Kenneth Brower: I had a couple. One was the idea that this would be a piece of our centennial celebration; it triggered the whole centennial. I also owed Sierra Club a biography of my father. They've been very generous; I’m 8 years too late. The whole biography’s been intimidating, and I haven’t been able to get to it. I thought that this would start the process. I’m hoping to get some raw material together to get the biography going.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of who could tell this kind of story. I could do sequels one, two, three, and four on the people who did cross paths with my father. These just happened to be the ones who came up first. And the challenge was how to limit this, because I really could have gone on for a long time. I didn’t find them repetitious. I found that everyone had their own angle on my father; each person had such a different personality, and had different ways my father started them off with his mentorship.
What is your earliest memory of your father?