Commerce, Conscience & Conservation

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Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, with its chief executive, Rose Marcario, in the tin shed where he once forged and hammered metal. The outdoor-clothing company has mixed commerce and activism since the early 1970s. Credit Laure Joliet for The New York Times

Since the early days of this platform we have linked to stories about this company many times, and its founder in particular is in our pantheon of role models. During these seven years we have also studiously avoided linking to stories involving politics, other than highlighting activism that holds public officials accountable. This story below borders on  too much politics, but I find the company’s position not only acceptable, but as usual about this company, aspirational. Thanks to David Gelles for this story about how Patagonia has supported grass-roots environmental activists for decades and how it is suing the president in a bid to protect Bears Ears National Monument:

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Patagonia employees at the Ventura, Calif., headquarters, where there are picnic tables in the parking lot, on-site day care and easy access to the beach.CreditLaure Joliet for The New York Times

VENTURA, Calif. — The offices of Patagonia occupy a low-slung complex of stucco buildings in this sleepy beachside town in Southern California. There are solar panels and picnic tables in the parking lot, day care with a jungle gym by the main lobby and easy access to the beach, where employees surf during lunch break. It is a corporate Eden of sorts, where idealistic Californians run a privately held company that sells about $1 billion of puffy down jackets and organic cotton jeans each year.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 7.06.08 AMBut on an unseasonably hot and windy Monday morning in early December, Patagonia headquarters were transformed into something that quickly resembled a war room. There were emergency conference calls with Washington lawyers. Court filings were prepared. Web designers remade the company’s home page.

It wasn’t a business crisis that had mobilized the company, however. It was politics. Continue reading

10 Million Acres Added to Chile’s Parks

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Today, January 29, 2018, Kristine Tompkins of @tompkins_conservation and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet signed a declaration to add Patagonia National Park and Pumalín National Park to Chile’s national park system.⠀ ⠀ These donations are part of a 10 million-acre addition to Chile’s national park system—with approximately one million acres of land from Tompkins Conservation and nine million acres of federal land from Chile—which will add five new parks and expand three more. These national parks will safeguard Patagonia’s wilderness, provide a boon to economic development in southern Chile, and continue to welcome Chileans and international tourists alike. ⠀ ⠀ This is an unprecedented victory for conservation that’s been in the making for more than 25 years and cements Chile as a global leader in conservation.⠀ ⠀ Photos: L. Waidhofer, C. Henderson, Kate Larramendy, @tompkins_conservation

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I don’t normally expect to get my daily news from Instagram, unless it’s an update from a personal friend. I follow the company Patagonia because they feature beautiful photos like those above, but yesterday they shared this fantastic announcement. Visiting Patagonia about a decade ago was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat before too long, and I am thrilled that there will be some new national parks to visit. Jonathan Franklin reports for The Guardian:

McDivitt Tompkins, the former chief executive of the outdoors company Patagonia, handed over 1m acres to help create the new parks. The Chilean government provided the rest in federally controlled land.

McDivitt Tompkins has spent 25 years working on land conservation in Chile with her late husband Doug, who founded North Face and Esprit. Doug Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in Chile in 2015.

“This is not just an unprecedented act of preservation,” said [Chile’s President Michelle] Bachelet, who flew to this remote Patagonian valley on Monday to receive the donation. “It is an invitation to imagine other forms to use our land. To use natural resources in a way that does not destroy them. To have sustainable development – the only profitable economic development in the long term.”

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Model Mad, Corporate

oh418v0r-1Thanks to EcoWatch for identifying these companies for speaking out, as is their right and responsibility as much as their self-interest–a good self-interest in conservation–and providing another example of model mad, corporate style:

The most anticipated outdoor recreation event of the year just finished in Salt Lake City, Utah, where hundreds of outdoor brands from small business outfitters to industry pioneers like Patagonia and Black Diamond Equipment gathered to witness the cutting-edge in outdoor gear. Continue reading

Tierra del Fuego

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Dogs at this year’s shearing. Outside the season, gauchos may go weeks without seeing a person. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

I am reminded of the 2008-2010 period of my life, which was spent mostly in Patagonia; some of it was in Tierra del Fuego. These photos, from an article in today’s New York Times, show that this newspaper is adapting.

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Horses, like these from Estancia Por Fin, help gauchos with shepherding sheep. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

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A Business Model To Fish For

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Heroes are, by definition, not easy to come by. When they get profiled, read it (this one is thankfully not merely fluff):

…The ordeal, and the perspective of middle age, snapped him to attention and caused him to refine the company’s mission. In the eighties, he’d been feeling increasingly uneasy about being a businessman and about the transformations and compromises that seemed inevitably to accompany corporate success. The company, he worried, was straying from its hard-core origins. “I was faced with the prospect of owning a billion-dollar company, with thousands of employees making ‘outdoorlike’ clothing for posers,” he said early in 1991, in a speech to the employees, in which he outlined his misgivings and his new resolutions. These subsequently appeared in the Patagonia catalogue, as a manifesto, under the heading “The Next Hundred Years.” Continue reading

A Great Race

As I type this post the 20 4 person co-ed teams participating in the 2016 Patagonia Expedition Race are hopefully getting a good night’s sleep before tomorrow’s Kayak and Rope evaluations. From our collaboration with the organizers, both behind the scenes and in the field, we know the teams are going to need it!

Statistically, fewer than half the teams that start the grueling combination of trekking, mountain biking, kayaking and rope traverses complete the race. The teams receive minimal assistance – basic maps that require extreme orienteering and problem solving – to make the best time from checkpoint to checkpoint in often inhospitable environments.

Imitating the journeys of our Indian forefathers, competitors advance over plains, mountains, glaciers, native forests, swampland, rivers, lakes and channels; guided only by mind and spirit but driven on by physical stamina and experience.

Every edition features a unique route. Past racers have found themselves in the Southern Continental Ice Field, the Strait of Magellan, Torres del Paine, Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel and Cape Horn. The land is diverse, the challenge real, the adventure untamed. Continue reading

Introduced Species in Patagonia

A beaver skull (read on for context). All photos by Amie Inman.

Yesterday, I wrote a bit about a book I once read and how it related to the case of the introduction of the small Indian mongoose to Jamaica to try and control a rat problem. The situation of accidentally transporting a species onto an island (or a separate continent, which often amounts the same thing), realizing the mistake when the species causes problems with the local flora or fauna, and introducing a second species to try to control the first, only to have the second species cause its own more serious issues, is a fairly common one around the planet, although Australia seems to be particularly vulnerable (look up rabbits and toads).

The case I wanted to write about today is an example of purposeful introduction of a species for human gain, but which was not properly researched beforehand and caused severe ecological damage that is still incompletely mitigated today.

Today I’ll cover the beavers in southern Chile and Argentina. The story I had originally heard, several years ago when I was Continue reading

Protecting Penguins

Penguins – one of the most charismatic and charming birds on the planet, and yet very few people ever get the chance to see them. They are not enigmatic, nor are they rare, for the most part. And yet, the majority of people are under the impression that the only penguins living today are the Emperor Penguins, and that they live in the Arctic region. However, not only are the emperors one in over twenty extant species, but no penguins whatsoever live in the Arctic region. In fact, no penguins at all even live in the northern hemisphere – all are native to the southern hemisphere, but not exclusively in icy-cold climates such as Antarctica. They are spread over the entire hemisphere, with significant populations on the east coast of South America, the entire Sub-Antarctic, Oceania, and various islands on the Indian and Pacific oceans.

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Landscape Yearnings

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As someone who enjoys the outdoors and the wonderful silence that nature provides, I have recently begun to feel the emotional effects of being surrounded by metal and concrete.  I, along with millions of others, am living in Buenos Aires and I am counting the days (8) until I have the opportunity to leave the city and enjoy the serenity of grass and the ability to see the stars. Recently I have had the good fortune of being asked to do some exhibitions of my work including many of  the photos that I took while down in Patagonia.

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Remembering Culture Shock

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It’s been almost 2 years since I first moved to South America, and as its winter here right now, the grey weather and cold temperatures have fostered a more contemplative lifestyle in me, and has often made me think about my first experiences in southern Chile.  When I arrived in Punta Arenas it was not only the first time in Chile for me, but also the first time in a Spanish speaking part of South America (I had visited Brazil the year prior).  I remember being apprehensive about my virtually non-existent Spanish speaking skills, and thinking that with French and German already in my arsenal, I perhaps will be a faster learner, and therefore, “it won’t be so bad.”  Then came the connecting flight in Santiago…I was in the airport and every word being spoken around me seemed utterly foreign.  Luckily I began to understand relatively quickly and became accustomed to the barrier.

Thinking about this made me check some old emails I had written to friends back home when I first arrived in Patagonia. Below I’ve posted an email that garnered a lot of attention, due to its comedic nature.  I’ve also included some photos I took while in Patagonia, which I have recently been revisiting because I find them peaceful, tranquil, and in accordance with my recent moods. Continue reading