Pioneering environmentalist Franz Weber dies aged 91

Apr 5, 2019 | News

The Swiss environmentalist Franz Weber has died at the age of 91. The Basel activist was responsible for over 150 campaigns but is best known for his defence of the alpine landscape, in particular against the spread of secondary residences. 

“The great lion has joined the stars. A pioneer, a visionary, he fought for more than 50 years to give a voice to those who did not have one,” his foundation said in a statementexternal linkon Thursday. Weber died on Tuesday, April 2, in the Swiss capital Bern. 

Weber started out as a journalist before trying his luck as a poet and writer. His vocation for ecology began in the mid-1960s in Surlej in the Engadine valley, eastern Switzerland, where he defended the alpine landscape against the spread of secondary residences.

Franz Weber, a quixotic and visionary campaigner
Direct democracy 

Responsible for over 150 campaigns, Weber was one of the first Swiss environmentalists to use direct democracy intensively. 

He launched numerous popular initiatives, including against the unrestricted construction of second homes – the 2012 national vote was perhaps his greatest victory – against the construction of buildings that are harmful to the environment or landscape and against the noise of fighter planes in tourist areas.

He also launched an initiative to save Swiss forests, campaigned to have the Lavaux winegrowing region on Lake Geneva given UNESCO World Heritage status and helped rescue the historic Grand Hotel Giessbach above Lake Brienz in the Bernese Oberland. 

In 1977, he attracted international fame with his campaign against the slaughter of seals, in which he travelled to northern Canada with 70 journalists and the French film star Brigitte Bardot. 

The Brigitte Bardot Foundation tweeted on Thursday that it had been extremely sad to learn the news of Franz Weber’s death.

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Brigitte Bardot Foundation

Since 2014, Franz Weber’s daughter, Vera, has been in charge of his foundationexternal link and continued his environmental campaigning.

“My father was a great man. His combativeness and sincerity were impressive; he was driven by a strong sense of justice,” Vera Weber told Keystone SDA. “He was never afraid of anything. He taught me to be bold and fearless.”

A public ceremony in honour of Franz Weber is due to take place in summer at the Grand Hotel Giessbach in Brienz.