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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]

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    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.

    Among Giants – A Film About Making Change in the World

    By Rainhouse Cinema

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    In late May, Rainhouse Cinema released the short documentary Among Giants on Vimeo. The film tells the story of an environmental activist, “Farmer,” who tree-sits to protect a grove of old-growth redwood trees in northern California from clearcutting. Prior to its online release, the film played on PBS stations, Outside Television, and film festivals around the world.

    Already three years into the tree-sit when filming began, Among Giants blends immersive cinematography with intimate personal reflection to create a vivid picture of life in the trees and the unwavering dedication of these activists.

    [Above: Farmer at home in the canopy. Photo: Ben Mullinkosson. Hit the jump to watch Among Giants in its entirety.]

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    Working for Wildness – Patagonia Environmental Initiatives 2013

    By Yvon Chouinard

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    “In wildness is the preservation of the world.” – Thoreau

    This year, Patagonia will be 40 years old. There is much to celebrate on this anniversary, but what I am proudest of is the support we’ve given the people who do the real work to save wildness: grassroots activists.

    I’m not an activist. I don’t really have the guts to be on the front lines. But I have supported activists ever since a young man gave a slide show in 1972 at a city council meeting in Ventura. What was proposed was an extension of utilities, roads and urban services across the Ventura River to support a planned freeway-related commercial development on the western floodplain near the river’s mouth. A lot of scientists got up to speak in support of the project. They said it wouldn’t hurt the river because it was already “dead.” Mark Capelli, who was a young graduate student and called himself “Friends of the Ventura River,” then gave a slide show showing all the life that was still in the river: eels, birds, raccoons. He pointed out there were still 50 steelhead showing up each year to migrate upstream. That brought the house down. The project was eventually stopped. He showed me what one person can do. He gave me hope. We gave him desk space.

    [Above: After 40 years, we still follow an early vision to protect wilderness for the sake of wilderness. Lost Arrow Spire, Yosemite Valley, California. Photo: Glen Denny]

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    Keeping Our Waters Swimmable – Bioswale Project at Patagonia HQ and Swimmable California Day

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    Over the past couple of years, and recently through the Our Common Waters campaign, Patagonia has focused our attention on one of the more challenging water pollution issues: stormwater runoff. When rainfall hits an impermeable surface – such as a parking lot, roof or sidewalk – it runs off, carrying with it all sorts of unsavory stuff: trash, animal waste, oil, gasoline, detergents, pesticides, chemical residues, and heavy metals like copper and lead. Basically, everything on the surface is washed away. This stormwater runoff flows to the lowest point in the area which is usually a storm drain. And from there it flows into a channel, a creek or river, and in coastal areas directly into the ocean without being filtered or cleaned.

    Polluted runoff is the number one source of contamination to California waters. Contamination from polluted runoff at Southern California beaches sickens approximately one million swimmers every year. Here in Ventura, where our headquarters are located, swimmers and surfers are strongly advised to stay out of the ocean for 72 hours after it rains. And polluted runoff to the coast threatens California’s $40 billion ocean-based economy. California Coastkeeper Alliance is partnering with businesses like Patagonia to get the word out about these serious health and economic impacts and tackle polluted runoff.

    This is our ocean, our coast, and our local rivers and streams. It matters to us what’s going in our waters.

    [Above: Patagonia’s Ventura, California headquarters front entrance. This walkway runs over a newly constructed bioswale that filters runoff from our parking lots. Photo: Jeff Johnson]

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    DamNation – 80,000 Dams, 51 Interviews and One Film

    By Katie Klingsporn

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    In July of 2011, Felt Soul Media filmmakers, Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, packed camera gear, computers and a few changes of clothing into a borrowed Sportsmobile van, braced themselves for a whole lot of time together and hit the road.
     
    It was the beginning of a 9,000-mile journey across the U.S. and beyond to research, chronicle and wrap their heads around a growing movement to tear down obsolete dams.

    [Above: Co-director Travis Rummel in the field during the filming of DamNation. All photos courtesy of DamNation]

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