The Cleanest Line

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    Mundaka: Surf but don’t touch

    By Tony Butt

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    When the first surfers turned up at Mundaka around the late 1960s and set their eyes upon those perfect lefthanders, they had no reason to think the waves wouldn’t be there forever. Almost half a century later, we now know that Mundaka is a very special wave, perhaps unique in the world; not just because of its perfection, power or length, but because of the miraculous circumstances that made it the way it is. Sure, there are waves just as long and hollow as Mundaka, but the vast majority break on immovable rock or coral platforms. Mundaka, on the other hand, relies on a rivermouth sandbar.

    In the early days, the overriding concern was how the surfers themselves could make the best of the wave. How could they improve board design and riding techniques to get in and out of those freight-train barrels as easily as possible? They had no idea that the principal concern would eventually turn from dominating the wave to protecting it.

    This article isn’t just about Mundaka, although Mundaka is the central theme running through it. It is also about estuarine systems, chaos, Nature and us.

    Above: The Mundaka sandbar behaving itself, winter 2014-15. Spain. Photo: Javi Muñoz

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    DamNation – Help stop Ishiki Dam in Japan

    By Takayuki Tsujii, Patagonia Japan

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    All technology has merits and harmful effects. The same applies to dams that came into existence over 50 years ago. But the detrimental impact brought upon by dams has become increasingly conspicuous in recent years. Because of this, discussions have started to take place in the U.S. regarding the necessity of dams—from economical, environmental and cultural perspectives—with some of these discussions resulting in the actual removal of unnecessary dams. Such stories and movements can be seen in the movie DamNation.

    There are currently 2,800 dams in Japan. Structures over 15 meters tall are considered dams in Japan. If we include smaller structures, it is said there are close to 100,000 dams. It is a fact that dams played many significant roles in the economic growth and national prosperity of this country after World War II. However, once we entered the 21st century, the downside of dams became much more obvious – they choke our river ecosystems, destroy fish and wildlife habitats and degrade water quality, while often providing limited benefit as these concrete structures get older and, quite simply, outlast their value. Unfortunately, the administration in Japan has never conducted an objective, scientific evaluation on the necessity of existing dams.

    Despite this lack of research, there are over 80 dams being planned right now. Among those, the Ishiki Dam being planned for construction in Nagasaki prefecture’s Kawatana-cho poses serious environmental, economic and human rights concerns. These are issues that we Japanese must take a hard look at.

    Above: “Koubaru”, the area slated to be submerged by the construction of Ishiki Dam. The Ishiki River running alongside the road is too small and narrow to be visible. Photo: Yoshiaki Murayama

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    Oregon Rain

    By Kate Taylor

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    I stand at my kitchen sink, looking out the window as I fill a glass of water. I live in Rockaway Beach a coastal community of 2,500 people, renowned for all that is epic about the Oregon coast: stunning beaches, lush forests and rich ocean and inland waters.

    I take a sip from the glass. Outside, targeting a nearby clear-cut hillside, a helicopter sprays a sheet of herbicide. I spectate as the chemicals float to dirt, supposedly doing their job—killing weeds that might choke out saplings. Those weeds line Jetty Creek, the source of my small community’s drinking water. Yes, you read correctly: logging companies spray chemicals over my community’s drinking water. And under the protection of the archaic Oregon Forest Practices Act, they’re permitted to do so.

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    How to Prevent Oil Spills

    By Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia VP of Public Engagement

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    When the oil hit our pristine Santa Barbara beaches in 1969, I remember feeling shocked. We walked the beaches in a kind of haze, scraping up tar without HAZMAT suits or even gloves. The devastation was enormous and we were heartbroken.

    Forty-five years later, Californians have made progress in protecting our coastline from further degradation at the hands of oil and gas extraction. The 1969 spill sparked the modern environmental movement, spurring major pieces of environmental legislation in the early 1970s and resulting in a lot of good work on this coast by local activists to fight off ecological threats.

    Above: Trained workers clean up oil-stained debris from the beach after a recent spill in Santa Barbara County, California. Photo: Linda Krop/Environmental Defense Center

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    If GMOs Are Safe, Why Not Label Them?

    By Rose Marcario, Patagonia, CEO

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    When Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, began writing about GMOs in the early 2000s, he started by asking a reasonable question: “What does a clothing company know about genetic engineering?”

    The answer, he said: “Not enough.” And neither does anyone else. In the proliferation of GMOs, Yvon saw a serious threat to wildness and biodiversity.

    More than 10 years later, the prevalence of GMOs in everyday food products has risen sharply—but basic consumer awareness remains low.

    An alarming bill before Congress aims to keep it that way. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432) will remove any requirements for manufacturers to label foods containing GMOs. Even the misleading name of the bill suggests an intention to leave us in the dark.

    Above: Patagonia Provisions Wild Sockeye Salmon comes only from abundant, sustainable runs—we never use farmed or genetically engineered salmon—and our Tsampa Soup uses only organic, non-GMO ingredients. Photo: Amy Kumler

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    The Fisherman’s Son – My vision for Punta de Lobos

    By Ramón Navarro

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    When I was growing up I wanted to help my dad, and be exactly like him: a fisherman. Then a couple of guys blew into town with surfboards and wetsuits and I said, "Wow, this is amazing," and then I wanted to learn to surf more than anything in the world.

    So I learned to surf and started to travel the world, but I figured out pretty fast that the best place to surf was right at home. We have big waves, small waves and the traditional fishing culture I love. Nothing could be better.

    While traveling, I saw many similar coasts around the world that had been polluted or were scarred forever by out-of-control developers. I saw places that were pristine before, but had already been ruined. I realized the coast that I loved so much was also under threat—from pulp mills, sewage pipelines, dams and senseless development.

    Above: Ramón and his dad, Alejandro, organize their gear. Photo: Jeff Johnson

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    DamNation Petition Delivery to the White House – Washington state residents please take action

    On Wednesday, January 28, a small team representing activists, moviegoers, customers and the entire Patagonia family delivered a petition containing more than 70,000 signatures—the online petition and postcards combined—to President Obama and his top environmental advisers. Created in conjunction with the release of DamNation, the petition brought together activist voices from all 50 United States and 60 countries around the world asking President Obama to crack down on deadbeat dams—starting by finding a path to remove four harmful dams on one of the nation’s most important salmon rivers, the lower Snake, and begin the biggest watershed restoration project in history.

    Above: DamNation Petition Delivery to the White House. Video: Patagonia

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    Protect Bears Ears – Mutton Stew, Fry Bread and the Anatomy of a Public Lands Movement

    By Willie Grayeyes

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    My friend Leonard Lee works in the oil industry across San Juan County, Utah, both on and off the Navajo Nation. He oversees oil and gas wells and the crews who work them.

    So it may surprise you that Leonard is also the Vice-Chairman of a Native American organization that intends to protect 1.9 million acres of land as a national conservation area or national monument in San Juan County, Utah.

    The Bears Ears proposal was developed by Diné leaders like Leonard who were asked by U.S. Senator Bennett in 2010 if they had an opinion on public lands management. Never having been asked before, Navajo elders began telling stories. Hunters, gatherers and medicine men worked with conservation scientists to draw culturally important and sacred places onto maps. At the same time, spiritual leaders took their long-buried hopes and offered them to the winds as prayers for a place we call Bears Ears.

    Above: Cedar Mesa is one area that would be protected by the Bears Ears proposal. Photo: Josh Ewing

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    Mile for Mile, Part 2 – The Run

    By Jeff Browning

    How do you tell the story of 106 miles in two days in a short and concise manner? It’s nearly impossible—similar to trying to restore an ecosystem and build a national park. So many little steps, so many little stories.

    Our route would take us through the new Patagonia Park. Starting north in the town of Chile Chico on the edge of the nearly 400,000-acre Jeinimeni Reserve, dropping into Valle Chacabuco on day one. Day two would take us through Valle Chacabuco to the Park’s headquarters, up and over Cerro Tamanguito and into the southern beech forests of Tamango National Reserve to end in the small village of Cochrane on the western edge of Lago Cochrane.

    Above: Mile for Mile: A Film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia. Video: Rios Libres and Patagonia 

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    Green: The Old Red

    Words and photos by Michael Kew

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    “EXPECT ANOTHER ROUND OF STORM-FORCE WINDS, WITH HURRICANE-FORCE GUSTS POSSIBLE, ESPECIALLY IN THE VICINITY OF CAPE BLANCO. THIS WILL BE A VERY STRONG STORM. MARITIME AND COASTAL INTERESTS SHOULD TAKE ALL PRECAUTIONS NECESSARY TO PRESERVE LIFE AND PROPERTY.”

    By dawn, the damage was done—downed trees, flooding, thousands without power. The swell was huge and ripped apart by 70 mph gusts.

    A surf day? No.

    None of those for a while.

    Late that afternoon I sat on the couch and read “The Super Trees,” a feature in the October 2009 issue of National Geographic. It detailed Mike Fay’s and Lindsey Holm’s Redwood Transect, a yearlong, 1,800-mile, south-to-north hike through California’s coast redwood forests. Flanking their route, they’d found the world’s southernmost grove at Villa Creek in Big Sur; near the article’s end, one line struck me: “On the last day of their transect, as they hunted for the northernmost redwood near Oregon’s Chetco River….”

    Wait—I lived on the banks of the Chetco. And coast redwood is Oregon’s rarest type of forest.

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