The Earth Protector is for sale.
Leslie Davis — the longtime abrasive, in-your-face environmental activist, perennial political candidate and prolific lawsuit filer — is putting Earth Protector, his one-man business, brand, web domain name and logo, on the block.
For more than 30 years, Davis has been a noisy, often quixotic voice on the fringe of the state’s political and environmental scene, a thorn in the side of polluters and politicians alike.
He’s famously fought, sued, insulted, harangued and protested everyone from Jesse Ventura to Tim Pawlenty, NSP to the Koch refinery, Disney to Aveda, the Norwegian consulate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
He’s opposed garbage incinerators, leg-hold animal traps, the Twins stadium, the Hiawatha Avenue light rail line and the PolyMet copper-nickel mine. He’s criticized other mainstream environmental organizations as often as he’s agreed with them.
And he’s no stranger to being insulted and harangued himself. He’s been dragged out of public meetings by security guards and once got arrested for refusing to come out of an oak tree that he’d climbed to protest his exclusion from a mayoral debate.
While opponents have dismissed him as a gadfly, a crackpot and a publicity hound, he’s won respect for drawing attention to important environmental issues and for his single-minded commitment to fight for the causes he believes in.
“In action, he could be really rough,” said Ken Pentel, a former Green Party and Ecology Democracy Party candidate for governor. “He’s not one to kiss up, that’s for sure.”
He’s also been given credit for not giving up the fight.
“The fact that he’s been persistent about it is something to be commended,” said George Crocker, executive director of the North American Water Office. “He hasn’t sold out. He’s still trying.”
But at 81, Davis said, he’s ready to cash in some of his chips.
He said he thinks that his Earth Protector brand and company, which he started in 1983, could be worth millions to a corporation such as Target or Walmart. They could use it to market environmentally friendly and healthy products, he said.
“Earth Protector has a 35-year history of good, honest credible work,” Davis said. “People like the name. It’s a nice name, a beautiful logo.”
He even tried to contact Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to see if he’s interested in buying the brand.
“What is Jeff Bezos? He’s just the head of Amazon. He could be the Earth Protector,” Davis said.
Diving in, moving on
Davis, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., once lived a prosperous, upper-middle-class life. He came to Minnesota in 1962 to work as a sales representative for women’s clothing lines.
But one day in the summer of 1978, he took his speedboat out on the Mississippi River and jumped in for a swim. He felt his skin burning from something in the water. He started noticing and speaking out on environmental issues. Eventually, those causes took over his life.
Now he doesn’t own a car. He gets by with the help of donations from supporters. He lives and runs his activities out of a former biker bar on Lowry Avenue in north Minneapolis.
“It’s not a totally approved living space,” he admitted, but added that “the beer smell is completely gone.”
Davis often criticized government environmental agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as being too cozy with industry.
“Nobody has any say and control over me,” he said. “I’m not for sale.”
Putting Earth Protector up for sale isn’t selling out, he said.
“I call it cashing in,” he said.
If all goes well, he said, he’d like to use the money to go to Europe for the first time in his life. He wants to visit London and Paris, maybe spend some time on the French Riviera. He’d also like to visit Navahrudak, a town in Belarus where his father’s parents lived before they were killed in the Holocaust.
“I’ve been wanting to learn more about their demise for a long time,” Davis said. “I might want to ask the Germans for reparations.”
A fearless life
But Davis said not to worry, he’ll be back in Minnesota in time for his inauguration next year.
He’s running for governor again, hoping that the seventh time is the charm.
Davis, who is running as an independent, has also run for Minneapolis mayor (twice), U.S. Senate, Minneapolis City Council and Hennepin County Board. His party affiliations have included Republican, DFL, the Protect the Earth Party, the Nutritional Rights Alliance and the Incumbent Removal Service.
This might be his last run for office.
He described himself as “a nimble and athletic senior citizen” when he sued Macy’s in 2015 after tripping and injuring himself on a broken sidewalk in front of the downtown Minneapolis store. But he’s also had coronary artery problems and had open heart surgery in 2015.
“I’m going to live a long time,” he said, “but not forever.”
His campaign platform for his gubernatorial run includes legalization of cannabis, stopping public fluoridation of water, banning high-fructose corn syrup in schools and a plan that he says could generate money for road and bridge maintenance and construction without any borrowing or taxation. All we have to do is have state-chartered banks create the money, he said.
Another Davis cause is promoting the planting of milkweed to save monarch butterflies.
To help that along, he recently came up with a scheme to create a designer dress with a pocket embroidered with “Save the Monarch.”
His hope was to get the dress sold in a New York City boutique owned by former actress Phoebe Cates. It would be bought by a celebrity such as Paris Hilton, and the story of the dress and the plight of monarch butterflies would get on “Good Morning America,” Davis thought.
He said he spent about $6,000 to $7,000 on the dress project, but he “ran out of gas” before the dress got finished. Still, he doesn’t seem too discouraged.
“As a salesman, you live with the no all the time,” he said.
The Army veteran who describes himself as “the fearless candidate” said he has no regrets.
“I’m a kind of fearless person,” he said. “If you let your fear go, you can accomplish anything.”