“We seek a renewed stirring of love for the Earth. We plead that what we are capable of doing is often what we ought not to do. We urge that all people now determine that an untrammeled wildness shall remain here to testify that this generation had love for the next.”
— David Brower (1912–2000)
For the last four decades, Earth Island Institute has been at the forefront in the fight for the environment. This experience has prepared us as our planet reaches a crossroad. Through a growing network of grassroots activists and inspired leadership, Earth Island has maintained a single-minded vision to honor and defend the natural world and its inhabitants.
As we celebrate and reflect on 40 years of accomplishments, we invite you to join us in our continuing efforts to address the most urgent environmental issues of our time — to help us demonstrate, in the words of David Brower, our founder, that this generation has love for the next.
David Brower fell in love with nature during family vacations to the Sierra Nevada and while traversing the country’s perilous peaks as a world-class mountaineer. He began his crusade for the environment as a Sierra Club volunteer in the 1930s and in 1952 became the executive director of the organization. As the Sierra Club grew, Brower recognized that size and success could also bring inertia and caution. He missed the vitality of grassroots activism and came to believe that it would be more effective for smaller groups to band together if they wanted to meet looming environmental challenges and make a difference.
In 1982, Brower established Earth Island Institute as an organizational home to support grassroots projects working on a diverse range of environmental and social justice issues. Through this networked approach, all projects can leverage resources, experience, and ideas while maintaining the autonomy to address environmental issues from their unique perspectives. Brower’s vision continues through the leadership of Executive Director David Phillips, who co-founded the organization.
“We do this work because we revere the miracle of the natural world, its beauty and wholeness,” Phillips says. “And we believe that reversing the perilous environmental course we are on requires all of us to step up, connect, and take bold action.”
Earth Island’s success lies in a fourfold approach: supporting grassroots action, providing legal protection to defend important causes, reporting on environmental issues, and celebrating the next generation of environmental leaders.
Under its Project Support Program, Earth Island currently provides fiscal sponsorship services to a network of 76 projects that cover a range of environmental issues, including protecting and preserving wildlife, addressing the threat of plastic pollution, fighting for environmental justice, and restoring degraded forests, wetlands, and rivers.
Education programs aim to inspire children to engage with nature. Projects such as Seeding Sovereignty and the Sacred Land Film Project honor Indigenous people, culture, and land. Women-led projects, including Women’s Earth Alliance and Climate Wise Women, catalyze solutions to protect the environment and strengthen communities. Earth Island projects have a long history of tackling the challenges of a changing climate and the factors that contribute to planetary warming. Over the past 40 years, Earth Island has championed more than 200 projects within the organization and celebrated those that went on to form their own successful nonprofits.
Earth Island Advocates is the legal arm of the organization. Litigation can be a useful tool to advance our projects’ work, and many projects benefit from the legal expertise provided through the Advocates program, as well as its ability to engage outside counsel on their behalf. Through the Advocates program, Earth Island is able to bring mission-critical lawsuits on behalf of our projects to defend irreplaceable resources, wild spaces, and wildlife that are critical to a healthy planet.
Since its inception in 2017, Advocates has helped coordinate 19 lawsuits filed on Earth Island's behalf and won or settled six of them. These lawsuits include efforts to stop the wolf culls in Wisconsin, to hold major corporations accountable for their plastic pollution, to protect frontline communities from toxic chemical dispersants, and to compel the federal government to recognize a right to wilderness guaranteed by the Constitution for the people.
For nearly four decades, Earth Island Journal has exposed the abuses of the powerful and celebrated the power of individuals to make a difference for conservation, preservation, and restoration in a world increasingly controlled by multinational corporations and undemocratic institutions. The Journal is driven by mission, not money, and it has never shied away from speaking truth to power.
What sets our magazine apart from other longtime environmental publications is its unique, wide-angle perspective, which always strives to make the connections between the environment and other human rights and social justice issues. We are happy that our approach — that all issues we face in the living world are connected — is now becoming more mainstream.
Over the course of publishing more than 140 issues, Earth Island Journal has broken ground on covering critical environmental topics and received a number of media awards for excellence in journalism. Along with a beautifully produced print edition, the Journal welcomes some 40,000 readers to its website every month.
Established in 2000, Earth Island’s New Leaders Initiative works to support the next generation of environmental activists through its annual Brower Youth Awards and through workshops designed to provide young leaders with the skills to advance their projects. More than 135 youth have received the award, including several who have gone on to make a huge impact in their communities. May Boeve, a 2006 winner, is the executive director of 350.org, one the world’s leading international climate action organizations. Billy Parish, a 2004 recipient, is the founder and CEO of Mosaic, a solar energy company. Chloe Maxmin, a 2013 recipient, is now a state senator in Maine. Mackenzie Feldman, a 2019 winner, and Chander Payne, a 2020 winner, are now both leading projects at Earth Island Institute.
While Earth Island Institute works with a network of grassroots programs and projects, it welcomes everyone who wishes to be involved in building a better, fairer, and healthier world. In our 40th year, we call on you to help us in these efforts to preserve, protect, and restore our shared planet, now and for future generations.
Written by Stacy Kish with contributions from colleagues at Earth Island.