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← Let's make the world wild again

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Showing Revision 5 created 05/26/2020 by marialadias.

  1. My siblings and I grew up
    on our great-grandfather's farm
  2. in California.
  3. It was a landscape
    of our family and our home.
  4. When it was clear
    that nobody in our generation
  5. wanted to take on
    the heavy burden of ranching,
  6. the ranch was sold to a neighbor.
  7. The anchor of our lives was cut,
  8. and we felt adrift
    in the absence of that land.
  9. For the first time, I came to understand
  10. that something valuable
    can be best understood
  11. not by its presence,
  12. but by its absence.
  13. It was impossible to know then
  14. just how powerful the absence
    of those things we love
  15. would have an impact far into my future.
  16. For 23 years, my working life
    was with Yvon Chouinard.

  17. I started when he was designing
    and manufacturing
  18. technical rock and ice climbing equipment
  19. in a tin shed near
    the railroad tracks in Ventura.
  20. And when Yvon decided
    to start making clothes for climbers
  21. and call this business Patagonia,
  22. I became one of the first six employees,
  23. later becoming CEO
  24. and helping build a company
  25. where creating the best products
    and doing good by the world
  26. was more than just a tagline.
  27. Doug Tompkins, who would become
    my husband years later,

  28. was an old friend and climbing
    companion of Yvon's
  29. and also an entrepreneur.
  30. He cofounded The North Face
    and Esprit company.
  31. All three of these businesses
  32. were created by people
    who had grown up through the '60s,
  33. shaped by the civil rights, antiwar,
    feminist and peace movements.
  34. And those values
    were picked up in those years
  35. and carried throughout
    the values of these companies.
  36. By the end of the 1980s,

  37. Doug decided to leave business altogether
  38. and commit the last third of his life
    to what he called
  39. "paying his rent
    for living on the planet."
  40. At nearly the same time, when I hit 40,
  41. I was ready to do something
    completely new with my life.
  42. The day after retiring
    from the Patagonia company,
  43. I flew 6,000 miles to Patagonia the place
  44. and joined Doug as he started
    what was the first conservation project
  45. of that third of his life.
  46. There we were, refugees
    from the corporate world,

  47. holed up in a cabin on the coast
    in southern Chile,
  48. surrounded by primaeval rainforest
  49. where alerce trees
    can live for thousands of years.
  50. We were in the middle
    of a great wilderness
  51. that forms one of the only two gaps
    in the Pan-American highway,
  52. between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Cape Horn.
  53. A radical change to our daily lives
  54. spurred on as we had begun to recognize
  55. how beauty and diversity
    were being destroyed
  56. pretty much everywhere.
  57. The last wild protected places on earth
  58. were still wild
  59. mostly because the relentless
    front lines of development
  60. simply hadn't arrived there yet.
  61. Doug and I were in one
    of the most remote parts on earth,

  62. and still around the edges
    of Pumalín Park,
  63. our first conservation effort,
  64. industrial aquaculture
    was growing like a malignancy.
  65. Before too long, other threats
    arrived to the Patagonia region.
  66. Gold mining, dam projects
    on pristine rivers
  67. and other growing conflicts.
  68. The vibration of stampeding
    economic growth worldwide
  69. could be heard even in the highest
    latitudes of the Southern Cone.
  70. I know that progress is viewed,
    generally, in very positive terms,

  71. as some sort of hopeful evolution.
  72. But from where we sat,
  73. we saw the dark side of industrial growth.
  74. And when industrial worldviews
    are applied to natural systems
  75. that support all life,
  76. we begin to treat the Earth
  77. as a factory that produces all the things
    that we think we need.
  78. As we're all painfully aware,
  79. the consequences of that worldview
    are destructive to human welfare,
  80. our climate systems and to wildlife.
  81. Doug called it the price of progress.
  82. That's how we saw things,
  83. and we wanted to be a part
    of the resistance,
  84. pushing up against all of those trends.
  85. The idea of buying private land
    and then donating it

  86. to create national parks
  87. isn't really new.
  88. Anyone who has ever enjoyed the views
    of Teton National Park in Wyoming
  89. or camped in Acadia National Park in Maine
  90. has benefited from this big idea.
  91. Through our family foundation,
  92. we began to acquire wildlife habitat
    in Chile and Argentina.
  93. Being believers in conservation biology,
  94. we were going for big, wild and connected.
  95. Areas that were pristine, in some cases,
  96. and others that would need time to heal,
  97. that needed to be rewild.
  98. Eventually, we bought
    more than two million acres
  99. from willing sellers,
  100. assembling them into privately
    managed protected areas,
  101. while building park infrastructure
    as camp grounds and trails
  102. for future use by the general public.
  103. All were welcome.
  104. Our goal was to donate all of this land
    in the form of new national parks.

  105. You might describe this
    as a kind of capitalist jujitsu move.
  106. We deployed private wealth
    from our business lives
  107. and deployed it to protect nature
  108. from being devoured by the hand
    of the global economy.
  109. It sounded good,
  110. but in the early '90s in Chile,
  111. where wildlands philanthropy,
    which is what we called it,
  112. was completely unknown,
  113. we faced tremendous suspicion,
  114. and from many quarters,
    downright hostility.
  115. Over time, largely by doing
    what we said we were doing,
  116. we began to win people over.
  117. Over the last 27 years,
  118. we've permanently protected
    nearly 15 million acres
  119. of temperate rainforest,
  120. Patagonian step grasslands,
  121. coastal areas,
  122. freshwater wetlands,
  123. and created 13 new national parks.
  124. All comprised of our land donations
  125. and federal lands
    adjoining those territories.
  126. After Doug's death
    following a kayaking accident

  127. four years ago,
  128. the power of absence hit home again.
  129. But we at Tompkins Conservation
    leaned in to our loss
  130. and accelerated our efforts.
  131. Among them, in 2018,
  132. creating new marine national parks
    covering roughly 25 million acres
  133. in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
  134. No commercial fishing
    or extraction of any kind.
  135. In 2019, we finalized
    the largest private land gift in history,
  136. when our last million acres
    of conservation land in Chile
  137. passed to the government.
  138. A public-private partnership
  139. that created five new national parks
    and expanded three others.
  140. This ended up being
    an area larger than Switzerland.
  141. All of our projects
    are the results of partnerships.

  142. First and foremost with the governments
    of Chile and Argentina.
  143. And this requires leadership
  144. who understands the value of protecting
    the jewels of their countries,
  145. not just for today,
    but long into the future.
  146. Partnerships with like-minded
    conservation philanthropists as well
  147. played a role in everything we've done.
  148. Fifteen years ago,

  149. we asked ourselves,
  150. "Beyond protecting landscape,
  151. what do we really have to do
    to create fully functioning ecosystems?"
  152. And we began to ask ourselves,
    wherever we were working,
  153. who's missing,
  154. what species had disappeared
  155. or whose numbers were low and fragile.
  156. We also had to ask,
  157. "How do we eliminate the very reason
  158. that these species went extinct
    in the first place?"
  159. What seems so obvious now
  160. was a complete thunderbolt for us.
  161. And it changed the nature
    of everything we do,
  162. completely.
  163. Unless all the members of the community
    are present and flourishing,
  164. it's impossible for us to leave behind
    fully functioning ecosystems.
  165. Since then, we've successfully
    reintroduced several native species
  166. to the Iberá Wetlands:
  167. giant anteaters,
  168. pampas deer,
  169. peccaries
  170. and finally, one of the most difficult,
    the green-winged macaws,
  171. who've gone missing
    for over 100 years in that ecosystem.
  172. And today, they're back,
    flying free, dispensing seeds,
  173. playing out their lives as they should be.
  174. The capstone of these efforts in Iberá

  175. is to return the apex carnivores
    to their rightful place.
  176. Jaguars on the land,
    giant otters in the water.
  177. Several years of trial and error
    produced young cubs
  178. who will be released
  179. for the first time in over half a century
  180. into Iberá wetlands,
  181. and now, the 1.7-million-acre Iberá Park
    will provide enough space
  182. for recovering jaguar populations
    with low risk of conflict
  183. with neighboring ranchers.
  184. Our rewilding projects in Chile
  185. are gaining ground on low numbers
    of several key species
  186. in the Patagonia region.
  187. The huemul deer
    that is truly nearly extinct,
  188. the lesser rheas
  189. and building the puma
    and fox populations back up.
  190. You know, the power
    of the absent can't help us

  191. if it just leads to nostalgia or despair.
  192. To the contrary,
  193. it's only useful if it motivates us
  194. toward working to bring back
    what's gone missing.
  195. Of course, the first step in rewilding
  196. is to be able to imagine
    that it's possible in the first place.
  197. That wildlife abundance
    recorded in journals
  198. aren't just stories
    from some old dusty books.
  199. Can you imagine that?
  200. Do you believe the world
    could be more beautiful,
  201. more equitable?
  202. I do.
  203. Because I've seen it.
  204. Here's an example.
  205. When we purchased
    one of the largest ranches

  206. in Chile and Patagonia, in 2004,
  207. it looked like this.
  208. For a century, this land
    had been overgrazed by livestock,
  209. like most grasslands around the world.
  210. Soil erosion was rampant,
  211. hundreds of miles of fencing
  212. kept wildlife and its flow corralled.
  213. And that was with the little
    wildlife that was left.
  214. The local mountain lions and foxes
    had been persecuted for decades,
  215. leaving their numbers very low.
  216. Today, those lands are the 763,000-acre
    Patagonian National Park,
  217. and it looks like this.
  218. And Arcelio, the former gaucho,
  219. whose job was to first find and kill
    mountain lions in the years past,
  220. today is the head tracker
    for the park's wildlife team,
  221. and his story captures the imagination
    of people around the world.
  222. What is possible.
  223. I share these thoughts and images with you
    not for self-congratulations,

  224. but to make a simple point
  225. and propose an urgent challenge.
  226. If the question is survival,
  227. survival of life's diversity
    and human dignity
  228. and healthy human communities,
  229. then the answer must include
    rewilding the Earth.
  230. As much and as quickly as possible.
  231. Everyone has a role to play in this,
  232. but especially those of us with privilege,
  233. with political power,
  234. wealth,
  235. where, let's face it,
    for better, for worse,
  236. that's where the chess game
    of our future is played out.
  237. And this gets to the core of the question.
  238. Are we prepared to do what it takes
    to change the end of this story?

  239. The changes the world has made
    in the past few months
  240. to stop the spread of COVID-19
  241. are so promising to me,
  242. because it shows we can join forces
    under desperate circumstances.
  243. What we're going through now
    could be a precursor
  244. to the broader potential damage
    as a result of the climate crisis.
  245. But without warning,
  246. globally, we're learning to work together
    in ways we could never have imagined.
  247. Having watched young people
    from around the world
  248. rising up and going out into the streets
  249. to remind us of our culpability
    and chastising us for our inaction
  250. are the ones who really inspire me.
  251. I know, you've heard all of this before.

  252. But if there was ever a moment
    to awaken to the reality
  253. that everything is connected
    to everything else,
  254. it's right now.
  255. Every human life
    is affected by the actions
  256. of every other human life
    around the globe.
  257. And the fate of humanity
    is tied to the health of the planet.
  258. We have a common destiny.
  259. We can flourish
  260. or we can suffer ...
  261. But we're going to be doing it together.
  262. So here's the truth.

  263. We're so far past the point
    when individual action is an elective.
  264. In my opinion, it's a moral imperative
  265. that every single one of us
  266. steps up to reimagine
    our place in the circle of life.
  267. Not in the center,
    but as part of the whole.
  268. We need to remember
  269. that what we do
    reflects who we choose to be.
  270. Let's create a civilization
  271. that honors the intrinsic
    value of all life.
  272. No matter who you are,
  273. no matter what you have to work with,
  274. get out of bed every single morning,
  275. and do something that has nothing
    to do with yourself,
  276. but rather having everything to do
    with those things you love.
  277. With those things you know to be true.
  278. Be someone who imagines human progress
  279. to be something that moves us
    toward wholeness.
  280. Toward health.
  281. Toward human dignity.
  282. And always,
  283. and forever,
  284. wild beauty.
  285. Thank you.