Kenneth Brower is the oldest son of the pioneering mountaineer and environmentalist David Brower. Ken’s earliest memories are of the Sierra Nevada and the wild country of the American West. A freelance writer specializing in natural history and environmental issues, he is the author of many books, among them The Starship and the Canoe, Wake of the Whale, Realms of the Sea, With Their Islands Around Them, A Song for Satawal, Freeing Keiko, The Winemaker’s Marsh, and The Wildness Within.
His work has appeared in the Atlantic, Audubon, National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, The Pros Review, Reader’s Digest, Smithsonian, Sierra, Islands, and numerous other magazines.
Photo by Sandy Clair
Early days with mom and dad in the Sierra at age six.
Quotes from Ken’s Writings
“A living planet is a rare thing, perhaps the rarest in the universe, and a tenuous experiment at best. We need all the company we can get on our unlikely journey. If an island be washed away mankind is the less: the death of one species diminishes us, for we are involved in life. The more varied the lifer the better. There is no requirement that our voyage be a monotonous one.”
“From some unknown mainland, an uncertain number of millennia ago, the first canoe pushed off into Oceania. No one knows how that canoe looked. Its makers were not a people who kept archives. They worked from memory, not from blueprints, and their materials were biodegradable. There is good reason to believe that the first canoe was not a canoe at all, but a raft. No one knows how the crew wore their hair, or the language they spoke, or what they were running from, or searching for, perhaps, as they made for that blue horizon. They were setting out, it is certain, into the last great region of the planet’s surface to be explored and colonized by humans. The whole Pacific, a third of the Earth, awaited them. They were embarked on the last great demographic adventure of mankind.”
—Kenneth Brower, from A Song for Satawal
“Owen remembers smoking hashish in a long silver pipe with a single-breasted Arab girl. The breast had been removed as punishment for infidelity.
“How was it?” I asked him recently.
“About the same as with a girl with two,” Owen answered.
“’No, I mean the hashish.”
“Oh. It was all right, I guess.”
“Owen remember buzzing Bedouin caravans. There was rumor in the Air Corps that the Bedouins sometimes turned GIs over to the Germans, so Owen and the other pilots buzzed caravans in retaliation. The Bedouin camels bucked, threw their loads, and scattered. It must have taken days to collect them, Owen thinks. The Bedouins lay on their backs in the sand and fired their long, banded rifles at the planes. At least one bedouin had learned by how many yards to lead a Martin Marauder, swinging his silver-ornamented, eight-foot-long, pieced wooden barrel well ahead of it, for one plane returned with a rifle ball in its fuselage.”
—Kenneth Brower, from With Their Islands Around Them
Photo by Barbara Brower
“This is one of the best and most intelligent books I have read in many years. Brower is a master of the environmental genre, and the strength of this particular story makes it a page-turner powered by so much insight that even the whole biologists won’t be able to get enough of it.”
“Like the work of Paul Gauguin and, perhaps, of Margaret Mead, this is a thoroughly romantic account, the product of an astral traveler-in-reverse who finds in the intricate and almost magical traditions of th islanders more to marvel at than John Glenn ever did in space..”
“A marvelous book.”