They wept with Katie Lee as her songs of the flowing river brought David Brower’s spirit into the Berkeley Community Theater Saturday.
They laughed with Ken Brower when he described his father as a man who insisted that his children traverse icy streams on foot.
More than 1,000 of Brower’s friends and admirers at the mid-afternoon memorial evoked the essence of nature and howled with musician Paul Winter until the theater walls echoed with the sounds of wild wolves.
The man known as the “archdruid,” died in his Berkeley home Nov. 5. He was 88 years old.
The way to preserve the spirit of the man would be to emulate his activism, Brower’s friend Huey Johnson said.
“We either solve the environmental problem, or the earth dies. David Brower’s ideas, capped by his CPR – conservationism, preservation, restoration — is the obvious path to achieve this,” Johnson said.
A tape of Brower performing a piece he had written for the piano was played and environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill read a poem. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) brought a tribute to the three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize which she had placed in the Congressional Record. Claiming Brower as its own, the Berkeley City Council voted last month to set aside July 1 as an annual David Brower Day to memorialize the lifetime Berkeley resident.
Videographers encapsulated Brower’s life and activism: When he was eight years old, Brower’s mother lost her sight. David would lead his mother on excursions through the Berkeley hills, describing the beauty of the nature he found there. But it was Yosemite that Brower fell in love with, hiking its valleys and scaling its peaks.
Brower joined the Sierra Club when there were just 2,000 members and helped bring it to a strength of more than 70,000.
“If you have enjoyed this wild country, you have a duty to defend it for future generations,” he would tell others.
In 1952, he became the club’s first paid executive director and immediately went to work fighting dam construction along the Colorado River. Uncompromising, Brower fought with the Sierra Club Board of Directors over finances and its support of a nuclear power plant which Brower opposed. He resigned as executive director in 1969 — the first of what would become numerous resignations from the club — and later established Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute.
The organizations, he said, “(are) working to restore the environment and passing it along to the next generation.”
“(Brower’s) spirit lives in our guts, our hearts,” Katy Lee told the rapt audience. Then she sang about the dams Brower fought to block.
“The children will grow to be Davids among us and let the river flow. You’ll set it free. Listen to me. You’ll set it free,” she sang.