Australian Bob Brown is a humble man who’s accomplished extraordinary things, not for himself, but for his fellow earthlings. His goodness makes the heart glad, inspires, and assures: that each of us, where we are, doing what we’re able, can foster needed change.
Brown had been a physician for twelve years, moving from the Sydney area to Tasmania out of love for wilderness. There, he would become active in the state’s environmental movement, subsequently founding The Wilderness Society and serving as its director for five years, a commitment leading to his giving up his medical practice.
Such dedication characterizes Brown, unstinting in his endeavors to promote a global democracy and green economy, single payer healthcare, human rights, and environmental welfare.
In 1982-3, The Wilderness Society helped organize resistance to the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Franklin River in a large area of wilderness. 1500 showed up to blockade bulldozers. 600 were arrested, including Brown. He would spend nineteen days in prison. The good part: the day after his release, he was elected into Tasmania’s parliament.
Parliament, however, proved an unfriendly place, with only two other members voting to halt dam construction, despite 20,000 protestors on the streets of Hobart, the capital. In 1983, the issue moved to the Australian High Court, which ruled to halt the construction in a 4-3 vote.
Today, the wild river area attracts 200,000 visitors annually and has created thousands of jobs. The assertive protest efforts confirmed Brown’s belief that small, individual efforts at reform aren’t sufficient. Mass, collective protest is necessary to ward off powerful pecuniary interests.
In 1986, Brown was shot at and assaulted for protesting logging at Tasmania’s Farm House Creek.
In 1995, he was imprisoned twice for protesting logging in Tasmania’s Tarkine Wilderness.
In 2006, as a member of Tasmania’s Parliament, he initiated legal action to protect Tasmania’s Wielangta forest.
Additionally, he has authored bills advocating Death with Dignity, a nuclear free Tasmania, gay law reform, and lowering parliamentary salaries.
With the help of fellow Green members of Parliament (he was one of the Australia Green Party founders), the size of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area has doubled to 1.4 million hectares.
In 2011, as the elected leader of the Greens, first in the world legislation was passed, mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emission and the adoption of renewable energy resources.
In June 2912, Brown resigned from the Senate to found the Bob Brown Organization, a non-profit fund to assist Australian environmental campaigns and activists (bobbrown.org.au).
Now approaching 79, Brown is sanguine about his mortality: “I am an optimist. I’m also an opsimath. I learn as I get older. And I have never been happier in my life. Hurtling to death, I am alive and loving being Green.”
May Brown’s successful efforts kindle a fire in all of us to vehemently contest, whenever and wherever, those egocentric forces of greed that impede social equity, poverty’s elimination, a peaceful earth, and an abiding wilderness in which species achieve their destiny.