“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]
Now that the election is over, our work continues. I support the front-line activists, the river keepers and tree sitters who work to save a single patch of land or stretch of water. Today in the United States, small groups of kayakers and fishermen work tirelessly to bring down dams; duck hunters toil to preserve wetlands. And it’s mothers who exert the most pressure to clean up local toxic landfills. Activism never dies. Keep up the good work.
Presidential elections are the most popular and least popular event in America. In 2008, 131 million Americans voted for President. That's three times as many people as watched the Oscar's. A full 90 percent of registered voters turned out and more than four out of five young registered voters cast a ballot in 2008, marking the largest total turnout in history.
But that leaves about 70 million eligible Americans who sat it out. Think everyone you know votes? Think again. Across the board, in every demographic, people choose to let others decide who should determine the future.
There are many reasons for this. When unregistered voters are asked why they aren't registered, about half say they just don't care (give them points for honesty). But that leaves over a huge swash of Americans who found the voter registration system too confusing or missed the deadlines and didn't register for that reason.
Russell Train, who
led the Council on Environmental Quality under President Nixon and then the
Environmental Protection Agency under Gerald Ford, died Monday, September 17.
The New York Times in its obituary said that Mr. Train, "shaped
the world’s first comprehensive program for scrubbing the skies and waters of
pollution, ensuring the survival of ecologically significant plants and
animals, and safeguarding citizens from exposure to toxic chemicals."
I had the honor of working with Mr. Train on an essay Patagonia published in 2004, when George
Bush was president. We run the essay here again because of its strong support
for the environment, because of Mr. Train’s bi-partisan approach to the world
we live in, and because of its elegance. (Some parts of the essay relate only
to the Bush administration but most of the essay could have been written very
When you wake up on November 7th, what kind of future do you want to
A future in which your children – and the generations beyond them – will have the
opportunities to play in the same forests, discover the same animals, climb the
same mountains, and swim in the same lakes that have been such an important
part of your life? A future when you don’t have to worry that the air you
breathe and the water you drink may be endangering your life and the lives of your
loved ones? Or a future in which Big Oil and Dirty Coal are given free rein to
pollute our environment, put our public health at risk, and hasten global
warming in order to protect their billions of dollars in profits?
[Above: The author shares why she votes the environment during Wilco's concert at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, Vienna, Virginia. Photo: @LCVoters]
You might think that no election could have such a major impact on your life,
but the decisions we make this November – and the leaders we elect – will make
all the difference in whether we can protect the places and way of life that we
love going forward.
“The environment is where we live, where we work, and where we play,” said Dana Alston, a pioneer in the environmental movement. It is also, we think, any place you love.
Your special place might be Yosemite Valley. Or it might be the smallest pocket park in your neighborhood. The place you work might need cleaner air or more trees; the place you live might need better transportation.
We need leaders committed to the places we live, work, and play – and the places we love. The “environment” is abstract, and, sometimes, at the polls, it’s ignored. During elections, the “environment” is cast in opposition to other needs, as if “the environment” were a luxury we could put aside.
But, the environment is not abstract: it’s where we live. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the water we drink. It’s the places we go to relax and refresh. It’s the beauty and diversity of our one planet Earth.
A healthy planet is necessary for a healthy business and Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time. We want to act responsibly, live within our means, and leave behind not only a habitable planet but an Earth whose beauty and biodiversity are protected for our children and grandchildren.
That’s the reason Patagonia has a stake in this election. We plan to bring our deepest values with us into the voting booth in November and elect responsible leaders. We hope you’ll join us.