One of the tough things about this job is that working with so many passionate, committed activists, and being charged with representing their work to our readership, it’s hard to avoid coming close to hagiography.
This was certainly the case, and still is, with Earth Island’s founder, Dave Brower. With a resume like Dave’s – all those first ascents, remaking the oldest environmental organization into an activist group, saving Dinosaur, Point Reyes, the Nipomo Dunes, and the Grand Canyon, among dozens of other places, and nurturing dozens of young activists along the way – it’s hard not to slip into a bit of hero-worship. Fortunately, knowing Dave’s self-effacing, emphatically human character saves us from the worst of that worship.
Dave’s son, the wonderful writer Kenneth Brower, appears in this issue with an excerpt from his new book, Freeing Keiko: The Journey of a Killer Whale from Free Willy to the Wild. It’s a marvelous article, and yet it presented me with a conundrum. In the piece, Ken has some rather flattering things to say about Earth Island’s other Dave, our co-Executive Director – and project director of the International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) – David Phillips.
There’s one little problem: Dave is my boss. And that puts me in the position of publishing a few paragraphs of what could be interpreted as flattery of my boss, which is not, honestly, the kind of thing I generally do. And I can’t omit the passage or edit it down, because – here’s the thing – in addition to being entertainingly written, it’s all true.
Like I said, that’s the problem with working at Earth Island Journal, and reporting on the good work Earth Island project directors do: the line between straight reporting and shameless flattery is pretty dang narrow at times. It’s a privilege and a curse.
That extends beyond the realm of project directors as well. Just as we went to press, IMMP’s Associate Director and 300 Broadway office nudge Mark Berman returned from the Solomon Islands with a rather startling accomplishment under his belt. Working with local activist Lawrence Makili, Mark was able to persuade the government of the Solomon Islands to ban, in perpetuity, the export of live dolphins for use in the world aquarium trade.
Lawrence and Mark’s achievement is a victory for 29 dolphins still living in captivity in the Solomon Islands that had been awaiting transport to tourist attractions in countries such as the Bahamas. It’s an even greater victory for the unknown number of dolphins living in the Solomons’ territorial waters. With part of the economic incentive to capture dolphins removed, the marine mammals will face one fewer threat in an increasingly dangerous ocean. We’re proud of Mark and Lawrence’s achievement.
Victories like Mark’s, and Dave’s, and Dave Brower’s, and our three dozen projects’, past, current and future – they don’t just happen. They’re the result of the hard work and vision of dedicated environmental activists. We’re faced with a lot of bad news these days, and it often seems to be getting worse. It’s nice to be reminded that with a bit of determination – and the support of the environmentally concerned public (see page 24) – people like my co-workers can accomplish amazing things.
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