The Cleanest Line

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    B.S., Rednecks and Development

    By Shannon McPhail

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    Some people call me an environmentalist. What in the hell is an environmentalist anyway? Growing up in my family, it was a dirty word to describe privileged and over-educated people who got their education out of a book instead of the woods. My upbringing taught me that hard work, hard damn work, was the way to make it in life. I was raised by a farming family in the Kispiox Valley and we made our way as loggers, guide outfitters, rodeo stock contractors and, from time to time, we worked in the mining or oil and gas industry running heavy equipment.

    Editor’s note: It’s a pleasure to welcome Shannon McPhail back to The Cleanest Line. Shannon is the executive director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, a group Patagonia proudly supported during their historic fight against proposed coalbed methane wells in Canada’s Sacred Headwaters. Note: minor profanities ahead. 

    [Above: My great uncles packing into the Skeena Mountains. Photo: Wilfred Lee]

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    DamNation to Premiere at SXSW Film 2014 [Updated]

    By Travis, Matt, Ben and Beda

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    10, 9, 8… the DamNation premiere countdown has begun! After three years of planning, researching, shooting and editing, the film is finally complete. And we’re thrilled to announce the world premiere of DamNation will be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas.

    Update 2/12/14: The world premiere is happening on Monday, March 10, 4:30pm at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center. There will be additional screnings on March 11, 13 and 14 in Austin. See SXSW Film for details

    For those unfamiliar with the project:

    This powerful film odyssey across America explores the sea change in our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of our rivers. Dam removal has moved beyond the fictional Monkey Wrench Gang to go mainstream. Where obsolete dams come down, rivers bound back to life, giving salmon and other wild fish the right of return to primeval spawning grounds, after decades without access. DamNation’s majestic cinematography and unexpected discoveries move us through rivers and landscapes altered by dams, but also through a metamorphosis in values, from conquest of the natural world to knowing ourselves as part of nature.

    [Above: Official film poster for DamNation. Click for larger image.]

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    Solutions Series, Part 3: Dive In

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_bio_photoA few months ago, we started a conversation about solutions with the Patagonia community.  We identified three areas where solutions are needed most:  our communities, our businesses, and our governments. Last time we talked about solutions in our communities – the closest place to home. This time, we’ll offer some contacts for rolling up your sleeves and diving in.

    The only bright side about our current system being so messed up is that there are any number of ways to dive in and make things better – so many options, in fact, it can be hard to decide where to begin. My advice? Follow your passion. If gardening excites you, form a group to reclaim vacant lots for community gardens. Is education your thing? Volunteer to help local schools green their operations and engage the kids in activities like stream cleanups. Love biking? Recruit some fellow cyclists and work for bike lanes in your town. It doesn’t matter so much where you plug in, as long as you’re sharing your skills and passion with others in your community.

    The beauty of community-based solutions is that you can start today. Grab a friend and get going. There’s no need to be part of a national or international network to get started making change in your community. On the other hand, networks can be a great source of inspiration, advice, and lessons learned. Here are some of my favorite networks working on solutions at the community level.

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    The Nose Wipe – Removing Trash from The Nose of El Capitan

    By Dave N. Campbell

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    Another day at work on The Nose, with the author and ranger Ben Doyle. ©Cheyne Lempe


    2004

    My partner shouted at the top of his lungs, causing me to jolt to attention and look down to him and our hanging camp. We were high on El Capitan’s Shield route, and I watched helplessly as a yellow dry bag containing our garbage from the past five days – including twenty-four crushed aluminum cans – grew smaller and smaller as it plummeted toward the ground. After a full twenty seconds of airtime, our bag exploded at the base of the monolith, firing shrapnel in all directions. The blast sent echoes to Half Dome and back.

    The yellow bag had been clipped in poorly and detached once I began hauling our supplies to the next station. (In climbing terms: the dry bag buckle was mistakenly clipped into the taut docking line and thus came loose when my partner lowered out the bags.) It was March and, fortunately, we had the wall to ourselves, otherwise the error could have killed someone. Our team was relatively inexperienced and also greatly relieved that we did not drop something vital, like a sleeping bag. Dark clouds lurked and when we finally reached the top we were pounded by a violent storm. We fought our way down the slippery descent in the dark, and somehow found our way to the Ahwahnee Hotel, where we slept on the floor next to a crackling fireplace. In the morning, we exited quickly, forgetting about the yellow bag debacle, and drove back to school without cleaning up our mess.

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    DamNation – Susitna: Alaska’s Mega Dam(n) Proposal

    By Matt Stoecker and Travis Rummel

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    The Susitna is a huge glacial river that drains the indomitable Alaska Range. Denali looms on the horizon. One of America’s last great, wild, undammed rivers, it is home to large numbers of king, sockeye, pink, coho and chum salmon, which push through its heavy currents to spawn in its clear-water tributaries. The “Su” sees the fourth largest king salmon run in Alaska, producing hundreds of thousands of them each year.

    The state of Alaska wants to build a 735-foot-high dam on the Susitna to generate electricity. It would be the nation’s second tallest. It’s not the first time the Su has been looked to as a potential source of hydropower. Studies done in the 1950s and ‘80s both explored the feasibility of damming the river. Both agreed that it didn’t make financial sense.

    [Above: Old growth forests and the confluence of Kosina Creek and the Susitna River would be submerged under the reservoir created by the proposed dam. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

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    Chuitna Mine – Pebble is Not the Only Mine Endangering Salmon

    By Paul Moinester

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    Peering out the window of the plane, I took a deep breath and tried to soak it all in. The sun was glistening on the expansive mudflats, casting a bright glow over the pristine landscape. To the west, the Alaska Range was commandeering the sky, its snowcapped peaks piercing the clouds. Everywhere the eye could see, serpentine rivers were snaking through the flats on their journey to the Cook Inlet. And though too small to be seen from the sky, the rivers were teeming with salmon, beckoning me to immerse myself in these pure waters and pursue that heart-stopping tug.

    It’s hard to fathom a place so raw, so barren, and so untouched. But it’s even harder to acknowledge the disturbing reality that this landscape is endangered and could soon become an industrial wasteland if the proposed Chuitna coal strip mine is given a green light.

    [Above: View from the plane of the pristine Chuitna watershed. All photos by Paul Moinester]

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    Inspired by Nature – The 2013 Patagonia Tools for Grassroots Activists Conference

    By Jim Little

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    They flew in from rural Alaska, from Albuquerque, South Boston and Traverse City, Michigan, where they work to stop dams, preserve native forest, create urban farms and develop regional water-management plans. Coming together at Fallen Leaf Lake (near Lake Tahoe, Calif.), Sept. 11-15, for Patagonia’s Tools for Grassroots Activists conference, some 74 environmental activists from distant corners of the country and everywhere in between took a break from their often solitary, usually underpaid nonprofit existences to try to become more effective advocates for the natural world.

    The Tools conference is a skills training organized by Patagonia’s environmental department and led this year by 15 experts from government, communications, fundraising and environmental nonprofits. Patagonia convenes the gathering every two years with the help of staff at Stanford Sierra Camp. This was our 13th Tools conference, and going by participants’ comments, among the best.

    [Spelling it out. Environmental activists, Patagonia employees and conference presenters pose for a pic that, in case you can't quite make it out, spells "TOOLS." Photo: Mikey Schaefer]

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    Solutions Series, Part 2: Solutions in Our Communities

    By Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff Project

    Annie_bio_photoIn 1968, high jumper Dick Fosbury set an Olympics record by rejecting the standard "straddling" technique – one leg, then the other – in favor of flinging his whole body up and over the bar, head first and backwards. At first track and field officials tried to ban the awkward move dubbed the Fosbury Flop, but it was so effective that soon almost all high jumpers used it, as they still do today. The Flop was not a transactional solution aimed at tweaking the conventional way of doing things, but a transformational solution that changed how the game was played.

    To make changes on the scale needed to address the severity of today’s environmental, economic and social crises, we have to change the rules of the game on three levels: in our governments, in our businesses and in our communities. Our communities are a good place to start: They're close to home; the solutions are usually easier to achieve than trying to make change at the international, national or even state levels; and the emotional and social rewards are more immediate.

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    Highlights from Patagonia’s “Our Common Waters” Environmental Campaign 2011-2013

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    Over the past two years, Patagonia’s major environmental campaign has been Our Common Waters (OCW). The campaign influenced Patagonia’s impact on water and brought awareness to one simple fact: the more water people use, the less there is for everything else.

    We’re moving out of this campaign, and into our next one. The Responsible Economy will start in September.

    Before we leave Our Common Waters, we want to highlight some successes in the campaign, and thank some of our key partners for their ongoing efforts.

    Our Common Waters focused on water scarcity, broken rivers and pollution, as well as Patagonia’s use of water as a company. At the end of this post, you'll find the environmental groups we worked with on each of these issues.

    [Above: Instructions for removal. Matilija Dam, Ventura County, California. Photo: Matt Stoecker]

    Continue reading "Highlights from Patagonia’s “Our Common Waters” Environmental Campaign 2011-2013 " »

    preOCCUPATIONS - A Short Film Series About People Who Do What They Love for a Living

    By Chris Malloy



    I’ve always noticed that people who have “dream jobs” are too preoccupied with their passions to realize they even have an occupation. That’s were our little film series preOCCUPATIONS comes from. All of the characters we spent time with were very different, but they share one common characteristic: they are driven by the love for what they do, not the size of their paycheck.

    The team behind this project includes young filmmakers and musicians who, like the subjects, are making a run at figuring out how to do what they love for a living. We hope you enjoy this series, but even more so, we hope these characters inspire you to find your passion and run with it.

    Chris Malloy is a Patagonia ambassador and the director of preOCCUPATIONS. You can see more of his work at Woodshed Films.

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    © 2014 Patagonia, Inc.