Bruce Brown is an independent creative force…
BRUCE BROWN is an independent creative force who has made important original contributions in the fields of marine biology and deep ecology, American and world history, as well as journalism and the Web.
He is the author of more than 20 books, a successful entrepreneur and CEO, a noted athlete in three dramatically different sports, the holder of an extreme sport world record for half a decade, and a ground breaking digital artist, cartographer, and graphic designer. He is also an electric bassist who loves to play jazz.
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AS AN AUTHOR, Bruce Brown has penned 19 non-fiction books, including Mountain in the Clouds, The History of the Corporation, 100 Voices from the Little Bighorn, and Who Killed Custer?, as well as the novels Dr. Whacko’s Guide to Slow-pitch Softball and Princess of the Universe.
His first book, Mountain in the Clouds – A Search for the Wild Salmon — which launched the wild salmon movement and inspired the largest dam removal project in human history — ranks with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as the most significant American environment work of the 20th century.
His third book, international cult favorite Dr. Whacko’s Guide To Slow-pitch Softball, created a whole new genre: the “fictional instructional.” His fourth book — The Windows 95 Bug Collection — was put on display in the Smithsonian Institution as the first popular book ever published on computer bugs, his and his ninth and tenth books — 100 Voices and Who Killed Custer? — revolutionized studies of the Battle of the Little Bighorn by collecting virtually the entire eye-witness record of the battle in one place for the first time and making it all globally searchable.
As a journalist, he has done investigative reporting for the New York Times (the Karen Silkwood story), foreign correspondence for Atlantic Monthly (baseball in Cuba), and book reviews for the Washington Post Book World, (such as rediscovering Opal Whitely), as well as script-writing for PBS-TV (The Miracle Planet).
His profile of seminal American intellectual historian Vernon Louis Parrington is the introduction to the new edition of Parrington’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Main Currents in American Thought, published in the spring of 2011 by Transaction Books, an imprint of Rutgers University Press.
Bruce Brown is also a successful businessman, having created BugNet and built it into the world’s largest supplier of PC bug fixes before it was acquired by a Fortune 500 company at the height of the dot com boom.
Before the turn of the century, he pioneered Web design and digital painting, and as an athlete, he set a world record for climbing on a mountain bike in 1999 and again 2000.
His passion for mountain biking led him to create GalbraithMt.com, the world’s first online trail maps and guide, which recently celebrated a decade of trail blazing, and played a pivotal role in building Galbraith Mt. into the premier mountain biking venue in Washington State.
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“ACTUALLY, THE thing that I care about most is the ideas, the original thought,” said Bruce Brown.
“In the realm of deep ecology, I was the first to postulate that wild salmon are nature’s main means of returning nutrients from the ocean to the land, thus completing the essential nutrient cycle that underlies the ecological stability of a region where rain is the predominant meteorological condition.
“This idea, and the deeper realization that arises from it — that wild salmon are a crucial part of the deep ecological foundation of the North Pacific Rim — are now widely accepted and affect public policy internationally. This idea originated in Mountain in the Clouds in 1981.
“I was the first to see that — because of this — hatchery and wild salmon are fundamentally different in terms of their effect on the environment, even if they are the same species with the same run timing, returning to the river in exactly the same numbers! In the process, to differentiate one from the other, I coined and consciously elevated the term ‘wild salmon,’ which now has entered the language.
“I was also the first to argue for the removal of hydroelectric dams for wild salmon restoration, inspiring the world’s largest dam removal project on Washington’s Elwha River, exactly 30 years after Mountain in the Clouds detailed the venture capital-backed Elwha dams’ flamboyantly illegal and horribly destructive history.
“Mountain in the Clouds directly inspired Sen. Bill Bradley’s bill to remove the dams on the Elwha River — the largest dam removal project in human history — and I am proud to say it was on his desk when he drafted the legislation.
“I find the pursuit of root processes in history and ecology fascinating. So the deeper theoretical aspect of my work in Mountain in the Clouds led directly to Lone Tree, even though the story on the surface was very different.
“Looking at the sweep of deep agrarian history in Lone Tree, I was the first to realize that the process that destroyed the free yeomanry in England at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution (chronicled so memorably by William Cobbett) is exactly the same process that subsequently destroyed all significant free food resources — and what used to be called free farmers — in North America.
“The dispossessed yeomen who fled the industrial slums of London and Edinburgh for the New World unwittingly carried with them culturally the contagion of the thing they were fleeing, and after a suitable gestation period, it emerged to destroy yeoman farmers in America as well.
“So I coined the term, the ‘American enclosures’ to describe the process by which the increasingly corporatized power of money in America has destroyed the real foundations of America’s now only dimly remembered personal freedoms, just as they did before to the Americans’ great-great-great grandfathers.
“And the same pattern of conquest through the destruction of all food resources outside the money economy is also evident in the American Wars of Conquest on the High Plains in the second half of the 19th century, where the Americans destroyed the immense natural wealth of the American bison in order to secure a victory over the Sioux and the Cheyenne that they could not win militarily, as chronicled in 100 Voices and Crazy Horse at the Little Bighorn and Crazy Horse at the Rosebud.
“Because these processes are so long — spanning centuries and continents — it is easy to miss them. That’s part of why I find them fascinating. They’re hidden right out in plain sight. Most people never see them, so they don’t have even the slightest understanding of the forces that control their lives.
“The desire to give people tools to understand the large forces in their lives is also what drove me to write The History of the Corporation, which was published in 2003 and is shockingly the first general history of the corporation ever, in any language…”
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“IN THE REALM of business — which is NOT the realm of ideas — the thing that interests me most is innovation,” Bruce Brown continued.
“For instance, in 1995 I created the world’s first successful paid circulation electronic publication — BugNet — which was based on a couple important publishing innovations.
“In the traditional newspaper business model, the library of stories from past papers — commonly called the morgue — actually IS a sort of dark hole in the ground. All serious publications need to maintain a morgue because it enables their reporters to cover a large number of subjects they may actually know nothing about. The problem with the morgue is that there was no way to generate revenue from it, apart from the sale of each new issue of the publication.
“In 1995, I had the idea that a publication’s morgue could be packaged electronically as a searchable database, and sold at a premium to segments of the market that really needed the information. By this alchemy, the morgue was suddenly transformed from a dead weight of expense that grew heavier with each passing issue into a profit center that grew more valuable with each passing issue!
“And as BugNet grew into an industry leading powerhouse, its searchable database of bug fixes was a big part of what attracted clients like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, Sprint, John Deere, Nissan, Eli Lilly, Bayer, Chevron, Shell Oil, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Kimberly-Clark, Coca-Cola, Sara Lee, Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, World Bank, Blue Cross, City of Calgary and the University of Washington, to mention only a few.
“Another BugNet innovation ultimately became known as the ‘virtual office,’ although at the time the expression didn’t exist. By 1996, BugNet had staffers in Sumas and Seattle, WA, Campbell, CA, Cleveland, OH, and London, UK. Most of these people never actually met the other people in the organization face-to-face — they were tied together electronically and communicated via email, intranet and phone.
“I had never seen — or even read — of anything like this being done before, but I thought it would work, and I was right. The virtual office proved at least as effective as its traditional counterpart, and it was also considerably cheaper to operate since it eliminated a lot of brick and mortar overhead. This was at a time when not a single reporter I knew at the New York Times or Washington Post even had email.”
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Bruce Brown was profiled/interviewed most recently in Ron C. Judd’s Restless Native column in the October 17, 2010 Seattle Times, and Dean Kahn’s column in the January 30, 2011 Bellingham Herald.