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Brower Youth Awards

In the four years since David Brower’s death and the birth of the Brower Youth Awards, Earth Island’s youth leadership program has grown from a one-time award to an ongoing network of support for the country’s top young environmental leaders. Much in the style of Brower himself, Earth Island provides encouragement, financial support, and guidance to the BYA winners, whose ranks will swell to 30 when the fifth annual awards are presented on September 30 in Berkeley, California.

Since the first BYA ceremony in October 2000, recipients have continued to demonstrate the bold style of leadership and action for which Brower was renowned. The question “Where are they now?” is answered daily as Brower Youth Award winners report on their work from around the world.

Matt Ewing received one of the first Brower Youth Awards for his work in Iowa to stop Home Depot from selling old-growth wood. Ewing received a year of training with BYA partner organization Green Corps, and has become an in-demand organizer for campaigns around the country. Most recently he helped win a commitment from the California State University system to invest in renewable energy.

Ewing built on the success of last year’s “UC Go Solar” campaign, which was aided by 2002 BYA winner Jessian Choy, founder of the Student Environmental Center at UC Santa Cruz. Thanks to Choy’s efforts, the SEC is now fully funded by student fees and is the mainstay of a powerful student sustainability coalition spanning the UC system, which last year committed to using renewable energy and green design in all its new facilities.

This April, Dave Karpf, a BYA winner in 2000 for his National Forest protection work, became the first BYA winner to be elected to the Sierra Club National Board of Directors, where David Brower had served in six different decades. Karpf also has the distinction of mentoring three other Brower Youth Award winners from the Sierra Student Coalition.

Heide Iravani, a 2001 BYA winner for forest conservation in North Carolina, has taken her talents from conservation projects in Latin American countries to studying water conflicts in the Middle East along the Jordan River this summer. Iravani is the latest BYA winner to be named a Morris K. Udall Scholar.

When he was 17, Jared Duval organized students in his Lebanon, New Hampshire, high school to save a wetland that was slated to be paved over for a shopping center. Duval’s lobbying paid off with a narrow victory in a vote of the town council—and his recognition as a winner of a 2001 Brower Youth Award. He hasn’t stopped his political efforts since, writing environmental positions for presidential candidate Howard Dean, energizing student government at a sleepy college, becoming both a Udall Scholar and a Truman Scholar, and for the next few months, teaching high school in Tanzania.

Writing from Dar Es Salaam, Duval recalls the impact of winning a Brower Youth Award. “After winning the award and learning more about David Brower, my whole concept of the scope of influence that an environmental leader can have has changed.” Duval hopes to run for elected office in his native Vermont after graduating from law school.

This year, BYA applicants’ projects ranged from clean energy to watershed restoration to preservation of endangered species. Winners of the 2004 Brower Youth Awards will be featured in the next edition of EIJ and announced on the EII Web site in mid-August. To attend the awards ceremony, RSVP at


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