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Let's make the world wild again

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    My siblings and I grew up
    on our great-grandfather's farm
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    in California.
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    It was a landscape
    of our family and our home.
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    When it was clear
    that nobody in our generation
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    wanted to take on
    the heavy burden of ranching,
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    the ranch was sold to a neighbor.
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    The anchor of our lives was cut,
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    and we felt adrift
    in the absence of that land.
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    For the first time, I came to understand
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    that something valuable
    can be best understood
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    not by its presence,
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    but by its absence.
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    It was impossible to know then
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    just how powerful the absence
    of those things we love
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    would have an impact far into my future.
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    For 23 years, my working life
    was with Yvon Chouinard.
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    I started when he was designing
    and manufacturing
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    technical rock and ice climbing equipment
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    in a tin shed near
    the railroad tracks in Ventura.
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    And when Yvon decided
    to start making clothes for climbers,
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    and call this business Patagonia,
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    I became one of the first six employees,
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    later becoming CEO
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    and helping build a company
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    where creating the best products
    and doing good by the world
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    was more than just a tagline.
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    Doug Tompkins, who would become
    my husband years later,
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    was an old friend and climbing
    companion of Yvon's,
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    and also an entrepreneur.
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    He cofounded The North Face
    and Esprit company.
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    All three of these businesses
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    were created by people
    who had grown up through the '60s,
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    shaped by the civil rights, antiwar,
    feminist and peace movements.
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    And those values
    were picked up in those years
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    and carried throughout
    the values of these companies.
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    By the end of the 1980s,
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    Doug decided to leave business altogether
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    and commit the last third of his life
    to what he called
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    "paying his rent
    for living on the planet."
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    At nearly the same time, when I hit 40,
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    I was ready to do something
    completely new with my life.
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    The day after retiring
    from the Patagonia company,
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    I flew 6,000 miles to Patagonia the place,
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    and joined Doug as he started
    what was the first conservation project
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    of that third of his life.
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    There we were, refugees
    from the corporate world,
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    holed up in a cabin on the coast
    in southern Chile,
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    surrounded by primaeval rainforest
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    where alerce trees
    can live for thousands of years.
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    We were in the middle
    of a great wilderness
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    that forms one of the only two gaps
    in the Pan-American highway,
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    between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Cape Horn.
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    A radical change to our daily lives
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    spurred on as we had begun to recognize
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    how beauty and diversity
    were being destroyed
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    pretty much everywhere.
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    The last wild protected places on earth
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    were still wild
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    mostly because the relentless
    front lines of development
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    simply hadn't arrived there yet.
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    Doug and I were in one
    of the most remote parts on earth,
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    and still around the edges
    of Pumalín Park,
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    our first conservation effort.
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    Industrial aquaculture
    was growing like a malignancy.
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    Before too long, other threats
    arrived to the Patagonia region.
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    Gold mining, dam projects
    on pristine rivers,
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    and other growing conflicts.
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    The vibration of stampeding
    economic growth worldwide
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    could be heard even in the highest
    latitudes of the Southern Cone.
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    I know that progress is viewed,
    generally, in very positive terms,
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    as some sort of hopeful evolution.
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    But from where we sat,
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    we saw the dark side of industrial growth.
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    And when industrial worldviews
    are applied to natural systems
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    that support all life,
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    we begin to treat the Earth
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    as a factory that produces all the things
    that we think we need.
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    As we're all painfully aware,
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    the consequences of that worldview
    are destructive to human welfare,
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    our climate systems, and to wildlife.
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    Doug called it the price of progress.
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    That's how we saw things
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    and we wanted to be a part
    of the resistance,
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    pushing up against all of those trends.
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    The idea of buying private land
    and then donating it
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    to create national parks
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    isn't really new.
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    Anyone who has even enjoyed the views
    of Teton National Park in Wyoming
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    or camped in Acadia National Park in Maine
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    has benefited from this big idea.
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    Through our family foundation,
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    we began to acquire wildlife habitat
    in Chile and Argentina.
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    Being believers in conservation biology,
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    we were going for big, wild and connected.
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    Areas that were pristine, in some cases,
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    and others that would need time to heal,
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    that needed to be rewild.
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    Eventually, we bought
    more than two million acres
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    from willing sellers,
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    assembling them into privately
    managed protected areas,
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    while building park infrastructure
    as camp grounds and trails,
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    for future use by the general public.
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    All were welcome.
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    Our goal was to donate all of this land
    in the form of new national parks.
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    You might describe this
    as a kind of capitalist jujitsu move.
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    We deployed private wealth
    from our business lives,
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    and deployed it to protect nature
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    from being devoured by the hand
    of the global economy.
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    It sounded good,
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    but in the early '90s in Chile,
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    where wildlands philanthropy,
    which is what we called it,
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    was completely unknown,
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    we faced tremendous suspicion,
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    and, from many quarters,
    downright hostility.
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    Over time, largely by doing
    what we said we were doing,
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    we began to win people over.
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    Over the last 27 years,
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    we've permanently protected
    nearly 15 million acres
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    of temperate rainforest,
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    Patagonian step grasslands,
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    coastal areas,
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    freshwater wetlands,
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    and created 13 new national parks.
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    All comprised of our land donations
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    and federal lands
    adjoining those territories.
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    After Doug's death
    following a kayaking accident
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    four years ago,
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    the power of absence hit home again.
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    But we at Tompkins Conservation
    leaned in to our loss
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    and accelerated our efforts.
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    Among them, in 2018,
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    creating new marine national parks
    covering roughly 25 million acres
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    in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
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    No commercial fishing
    or extraction of any kind.
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    In 2019, we finalized
    the largest private land gift in history,
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    when our last million acres
    of conservation land in Chile
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    passed to the government.
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    A public-private partnership
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    that created five new national parks
    and expanded three others.
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    This ended up being
    an area larger than Switzerland.
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    All of our projects
    are the results of partnerships.
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    First and foremost with the governments
    of Chile and Argentina.
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    And this requires leadership
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    who understands the value of protecting
    the jewels of their countries,
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    not just for today,
    but long into the future.
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    Partnerships with like-minded
    conservation philanthropists as well
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    played a role in everything we've done.
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    Fifteen years ago,
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    we asked ourselves,
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    "Beyond protecting landscape,
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    what do we really have to do
    to create fully functioning ecosystems?"
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    And we began to ask ourselves,
    wherever we were working,
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    who's missing,
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    what species had disappeared
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    or whose numbers were low and fragile.
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    We also had to ask,
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    "How do we eliminate the very reason
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    that these species went extinct
    in the first place?"
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    What seems so obvious now
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    was a complete thunderbolt for us.
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    And it changed the nature
    of everything we do,
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    completely.
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    Unless all the members of the community
    are present and flourishing,
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    it's impossible for us to leave behind
    fully functioning ecosystems.
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    Since then, we've successfully
    reintroduced several native species
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    to the Iberá Wetlands:
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    giant anteaters,
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    pampas deer,
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    peccaries,
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    and finally, one of the most difficult,
    the green-winged macaws,
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    who've gone missing
    for over 100 years in that ecosystem.
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    And today, they're back,
    flying free, dispensing seeds,
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    playing out their lives as they should be.
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    The capstone of these efforts in Iberá
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    is to return the apex carnivores
    to their rightful place.
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    Jaguars on the land,
    giant otters in the water.
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    Several years of trial and error
    produced young cubs
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    who will be released,
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    for the first time in over half a century,
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    into Iberá wetlands,
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    and now, the 1.7-million-acre Iberá Park
    will provide enough space
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    for recovering jaguar populations
    with low risk of conflict
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    with neighboring ranchers.
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    Our rewilding projects in Chile
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    are gaining ground on low numbers
    of several key species
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    in the Patagonia region.
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    The huemul deer
    that is truly nearly extinct,
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    the lesser rheas
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    and building the puma
    and fox populations back up.
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    You know, the power
    of the absent can't help us
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    if it just leads to nostalgia or despair.
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    To the contrary,
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    it's only useful if it motivates us
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    toward working to bring back
    what's gone missing.
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    Of course, the first step in rewilding
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    is to be able to imagine
    that it's possible in the first place.
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    That wildlife abundance
    recorded in journals
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    aren't just stories
    from some old dusty books.
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    Can you imagine that?
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    Do you believe the world
    could be more beautiful,
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    more equitable?
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    I do.
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    Because I've seen it.
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    Here's an example.
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    When we purchased
    one of the largest ranches
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    in Chile and Patagonia, in 2004,
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    it looked like this.
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    For a century, this land
    had been overgrazed by livestock,
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    like most grasslands around the world.
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    Soil erosion was rampant,
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    hundreds of miles of fencing
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    kept wildlife and its flow corralled.
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    And that was with the little
    wildlife that was left.
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    The local mountain lions and foxes
    had been persecuted for decades,
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    leaving their numbers very low.
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    Today, those lands are the 763,000-acre
    Patagonian National Park,
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    and it looks like this.
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    And Arcelio, the former gaucho,
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    whose job was to first find and kill
    mountain lions in the years past,
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    today is the head tracker
    for the Park's wildlife team,
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    and his story captures the imagination
    of people around the world.
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    What is possible.
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    I share these thought and images with you
    not for self-congratulations,
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    but to make a simple point
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    and propose an urgent challenge.
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    If the question is survival,
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    survival of life's diversity
    and human dignity,
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    and healthy human communities,
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    then the answer must include
    rewilding the Earth.
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    As much and as quickly as possible.
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    Everyone has a role to play in this,
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    but especially those of us with privilege,
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    with political power,
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    wealth,
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    where, let's face it,
    for better, for worse,
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    that's where the chess game
    of our future is played out.
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    And this gets to the core of the question.
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    Are we prepared to do what it takes
    to change the end of this story?
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    The changes the world has made
    in the past few months
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    to stop the spread of COVID-19
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    are so promising to me,
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    because it shows we can join forces
    under desperate circumstances.
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    What we're going through now
    could be a precursor
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    to the broader potential damage
    as a result of the climate crisis.
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    But without warning,
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    globally, we're learning to work together
    in ways we could never have imagined.
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    Having watched young people
    from around the world
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    rising up and going out into the streets
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    to remind us of our culpability
    and chastising us for our inaction
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    are the ones who really inspire me.
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    I know, you've heard all of this before.
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    But if there was ever a moment
    to awaken to the reality
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    that everything is connected
    to everything else,
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    it's right now.
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    Every human life
    is affected by the actions
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    of every other human life
    around the globe.
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    And the fate of humanity
    is tied to the health of the planet.
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    We have a common destiny.
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    We can flourish
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    or we can suffer ...
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    But we're going to be doing it together.
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    So here's the truth.
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    We're so far past the point
    when individual action is an elective.
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    In my opinion, it's a moral imperative
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    that every single one of us
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    steps up to reimagine
    our place in the circle of life.
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    Not in the center,
    but as part of the whole.
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    We need to remember
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    that what we do
    reflects who we choose to be.
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    Let's create a civilization
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    that honors the intrinsic
    value of all life.
  • 15:26 - 15:28
    No matter who you are,
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    no matter what you have to work with,
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    get out of bed every single morning,
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    and do something that has nothing
    to do with yourself,
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    but rather having everything to do
    with those things you love.
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    With those things you know to be true.
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    Be someone who imagines human progress
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    to be something that moves us
    toward wholeness.
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    Toward health.
  • 15:56 - 15:58
    Toward human dignity.
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    And always,
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    and forever,
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    wild beauty.
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    Thank you.
Title:
Let's make the world wild again
Speaker:
Kristine Tompkins
Description:

more » « less
Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
16:22

English subtitles

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