Summer 2013

Dear Friend of Earth Island Institute,

Contribute TodayWhat if I told you that you could write a single donation check that supports today’s most innovative and tenacious young environmental activists? Well, that’s exactly what happens when you make a gift of support to Earth Island Institute’s New Leaders Initiative.

In my Spring letter I told you how Earth Island Institute is growing environmental leadership through our Project Support program by sponsoring more than 60 solutions-focused organizations around the world, as we’ve done for the last 30 years. Another of our core programs – our New Leaders Initiative (NLI) – grows environmental leadership in a different way by making it possible for emerging environmental visionaries to shape their dreams into successful strategies for a sustainable future.

A Jolt of Inspiration

The annual Brower Youth Awards gala ceremony is an event you don’t want to miss. Hearing from the amazing young leaders in person always offers a jolt of inspiration.

This year’s ceremony will take place on Tuesday, October 22, at San Francisco’s Nourse Theatre. We are so pleased to be able to combine the free Awards Ceremony for 1,000 or more guests with an Opening Reception that raises money to support the New Leaders Initiative. You can reserve your seat for the free Awards Ceremony and buy tickets for our Opening Reception at: Our Host Committee members make such a big difference, and we are always eager to recruit new members. If you’d like to become a committee member or Sponsor and help underwrite this inspiring evening, please contact Kevin Connelly at:

New Leaders Initiative provides recognition to young visionaries through our annual Brower Youth Awards as well as on-going mentorship and support. We provide young leaders with the tools to focus their passion, boundless energy, and fresh ideas toward our shared goals of healthy communities and a thriving planet.

Earth Island’s Brower Youth Awards was created to recognize, honor, and support bold young activists. Each year six innovative and dynamic young leaders ages 13 to 22 are selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants from across the US and Canada. Now in its fourteenth year, BYA is recognized as North America’s premier awards honoring young environmentalists.

I know you share my passion for encouraging and mentoring the next generation of environmental leaders. Today I’m asking you to express your commitment to youth leadership by making a financial contribution to our New Leaders Initiative. Your gift will help keep the environmental movement youthful and forward-looking.

Each year around this time we are eagerly asked, "How many applications this year? How many applications so far?" While we are blown away by the sheer number of applicants (more than 200 completed the process), what is more impressive is the diversity of applicants and the sophistication and ingenuity of the solutions they are working on.

This year more than 600 young people started an awards application on our website – more than double the number from past years. What does this mean? It says to me that more and more young people see themselves as leaders and are eager to join the environmental movement.

Once again we have recruited an all-star panel of judges to select the 2013 of young people on a stage, happy, holding certificates of award This year’s eminent selection committee includes Barbara Brower, Robert Bullard, Maria Gunnoe, Winona LaDuke, Rue Mapp, BYA 2002 winner Ethan Shaffer, and David Suzuki. Our judges are in the midst of making the final selections. Once they have been chosen, we will share the names of the honorees with our key supporters. If you make a generous contribution today, you will be among the first to hear the winners’ stories.

Thanks to our event hosts and sponsors and contributors like you, each BYA winner receives a $3,000 honorarium, leadership and public speaking coaching, and a wilderness excursion in the week leading up to the awards ceremony. In addition to being feted at our gala event, winners receive production quality short films profiling them and their project along with recognition through local and national media. In the months and years following the Awards Ceremony, they also receive ongoing mentorship and career coaching through conference scholarships, networking opportunities, and leadership training.

Beyond BYA

Our encouragement of youth leadership extends beyond the Brower Youth Awards. Our New Leaders Initiative has become a center for social networking, mentorship, and resources for youth environmental activists around the world under the leadership of Anisha Desai.

The New Leaders Initiative has been building relationships between veteran social change activists and emerging leaders via our “Rooted and Rising” events. These intergenerational salons, held here at the David Brower Center in Berkeley, provide a forum for seasoned activists and new ones to share perspectives and strategies. In the last year we’ve hosted Rooted and Rising discussions on fresh water protection and conservation, sustainable agriculture, and building a more ethnically diverse green movement. These events are helping to create a smarter, more sophisticated environmental movement.

Where Are They Now?

We continue to be amazed by the impressive accomplishments of past BYA winners. They aren’t the leaders of tomorrow – they are already the leaders of today.

May Boeve & Jon Warnow
May Boeve won the award in 2006 for environmental activism at Middlebury College, and Jon Warnow won the next year for his work to co-found the climate change campaign Step It Up. Today they both work at, one of the world’s most dynamic organizations working for climate justice. Boeve is the organization’s executive director, while Warnow serves as the chief technology officer.  
Jessian Choy
In 2002 Jessian Choy received the Brower Youth Award for founding the Student Environmental Center at UC Santa Cruz. Choy now works at the SF Department of the Environment where she has spearheaded the city’s creation of an online database that lists more than 1,000 products that are the most sustainable in their class. Choy also blogs at, where she offers sardonic consumer tips for eco purchasing.
Alex Epstein
Alex Epstein won the Brower Youth Awards in 2011 for co-founding Philadelphia Urban Creators, a collective of young people organizing Philadelphia communities to help them develop sustainably, and equitably, from the ground up. One of the focal projects of Epstein’s project was the creation of an urban garden in North Philadelphia. For this work, Epstein was recently awarded the Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship by the Sodexo Foundation.
Billy Parish & Daniel Rosen
Billy Parish dropped out of Yale in 2004 to help build a youth movement for climate solutions – an effort that eventually blossomed into the EII-sponsored Energy Action Coalition and for which he won a Brower Youth Award. Daniel Rosen won the award in 2005 for helping to create a bioregional farming network on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Arizona. Today, Parish and Rosen are co-founders of Solar Mosaic, an Oakland, CA-based firm that uses a crowdfunding model to install solar arrays on churches and other community buildings.

Read more about our amazing BYA alumni, watch videos of past award acceptance speeches, and keep in touch with Rooted and Rising and Movement in Green at:

Our latest New Leaders Initiative program is called Movement in Green. With Movement in Green we are supporting youth leaders who come from communities that – either because of geography or race – are underrepresented in the environmental movement. Through micro-grants to these young visionaries we can provide timely strategic support to their activism.

For this vitally important effort to thrive, it needs two big things: mentors and funding. We're looking for experienced change-makers who are willing to work as mentors in a targeted (and almost always virtual) way with Movement in Green candidates as mentors. Our mentors help them with strategy creation, fundraising, leadership development, social media, online presence, network building, environmental and social change theory. We make being a mentor straightforward and relatively easy. If you’re interested, please contact, NLI’s Ruth Gebreyesus

Contribute Today

Funding for New Leaders Initiative makes possible micro-grants to Movement in Green awardees (which can help them attend conferences, or set up a website) and builds relationships with the community based organizations that provide infrastructure for activism. Movement in Green outreach targets geographical areas for which we have low-applicant response. We need to learn more about these communities.

Your investment in the continued success of young leaders honors the vision of our founder, David Brower, who believed so strongly in the potential of youth. By making a contribution, you will help Earth Island Institute to mentor and train young emerging leaders working on the most pressing issues of our time. When you help us grow environmental leadership today, you are helping to ensure a healthy planet for the future. We ask for as generous a contribution as you can make at this time, as we expand this exciting work and continue to grow environmental leadership.


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John A. Knox
Executive Director

P.S: SAVE THE DATE! Join us October 22 for our 14th annual Brower Youth Awards at the beautifully restored Nourse Theatre in San Francisco. The Awards Ceremony is free to attend, and you can RSVP today. We urge you to consider purchasing your tickets for the pre-ceremony Opening Reception, join our event Host Committee, or inquire about Sponsorship online at: