The Entrepreneur Who Wants to Save Paradise: Doug Tompkins

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Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 15, 2014 - 11:15pm PT
Diana Saverin has an extensive article in The Atlantic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/09/the-entrepreneur-who-wants-to-save-paradise/380116/
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Sep 16, 2014 - 06:36am PT
Thanks for the share...interesting article...
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:10am PT
TFPU this Peter.

The Enlightened, Saviours of the Earth. Policing and protecting Mother Nature from us.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:34am PT
What Doug and Kris have done is simply amazing. Pumalin is 1,150 sq. MILES of stupendous wilderness.
There current project is building the infrastructure in a former sheep ranch they acquired in the Chacabuco Valley and then combining it with the Jeinimeni Preserve to create the new 1,000 sq. mi. Patagonia National Park. This park will combine different topographies; mountains, forests, glaciers and steppe. It will support incredibly diverse wildlife and will be the backdoor of my house.
And that is only in Chile...Argentina is a whole other story.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2014 - 07:54am PT
All true. But I thought the unique contribution of the article was the revelation of very heated and irrational resistance by local communities to these massive contributions Doug and Kris are making. Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
steve shea

climber
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:56am PT
You have to admire the altruism. Tompkins and his old climbing partner YC. We even feel it here with the 1% For The Tetons initiative for local businesses. But what Doug is doing is really big and as he says no one will remember how the park came to be in twenty years.
WBraun

climber
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:58am PT
Has he provided an alternative source of living survival to those locals whom he has removed their means of living?
crunch

Social climber
CO
Sep 16, 2014 - 08:28am PT
Interesting. Thanks Peter.

Hope things work out for him. Sounds like he's maybe over-reaching a bit, failing to put in the effort to get buy-in from any of the locals, but one article may not be painting a true picture. And yet....

"His (Tompkins) brand of self-reliance brings to mind some of his literary heroes, such as Henry David Thoreau. In Walden, Thoreau writes, “No man ever followed his genius till it misled him.” "

Not so. Let a wise woman put him straight: “If you start believing your own myth, that can mess you up.”
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 16, 2014 - 08:47am PT
I have also heard the allegations of heavy-handedness with those unwilling
to move. Seems like empowering them as co-stewards while they live out their
lives there might be in everyone's best interests rather than giving them
a peremptory boot.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 16, 2014 - 08:49am PT
You're right Peter about local resistance. That was primarily from right wing business interests regarding Pumalin some years ago. There has been a growing environmental movement in Chile. Recently, a massive dam project on the Baker River in Patagonia was stopped by environmental activists.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2014 - 08:54am PT
My admiring observations of Dougie over the last fifty years show that he is much more interested in charismatic and powerful yet still personal gestures involving a very narrow profile of people while still managing to astound everyone anywhere. He is quite a unique guy. He still thinks like a ski racer.

It is amazing to me that the locals have developed wild superstition and rank antipathy over his gigantic works of beneficence . Having left ground level quite sometime ago, grassroots are quite hard to perceive from so high up and anyway, they may just mislead one's vision by fiddling with the small stuff.

Randisi: excellent recommendation, thanks!
Jan

Mountain climber
Colorado, Nepal & Okinawa
Sep 16, 2014 - 09:43am PT
In Asia, the only way they have been able to create parks and wilderness areas has been with the cooperation of the locals and figuring out how they can make a better living from tourism than from subsistence farming or grazing on the same land. Otherwise, they poach all the animals in a kind of revenge. Once driven off the land, they no longer have an interest in its welfare. The same thing in Africa where the wildlife is not being decimated.

Where the locals are stakeholders, good things happen. For example, in the midst of the horrors of the Rwandan genocide, the locals protected "their" mountain gorillas.
goatboy smellz

climber
लघिमा
Sep 16, 2014 - 10:15am PT
WBraun

Has he provided an alternative source of living survival to those locals whom he has removed their means of living?

Nothing is mentioned in this article.
Just another white guy running indigenous people off land they have used for generations.

While I admire his goals, the way he is ignoring the locals concerns looks very callous.
wbw

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Sep 16, 2014 - 10:42am PT
There's an inherent conflict of interest when a rich guy tries to impose a vision of the world that forces those struggling to make a living to sacrifice. . . even if I agree with what Mr. Tompkins would like to accomplish.

Chouinard and Gore have the same conflict of interest. That they can completely insulate themselves from the sacrifice they would have others make just doesn't lend credibility to their cause.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 16, 2014 - 10:48am PT
Well said, WBW.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Sep 16, 2014 - 10:57am PT
Hippie with a load of money can make a difference. I applaud his efforts, however I wonder how sustainable his work is. I hope he builds a big enough structure to carry his work on after he is gone. Visionary people like him are not always the best people to carry the torch forward. Sometimes you need the evil CEO's touch.
crunch

Social climber
CO
Sep 16, 2014 - 10:58am PT
WBraun

Has he provided an alternative source of living survival to those locals whom he has removed their means of living?

Nothing is mentioned in this article.
Just another white guy running indigenous people off land they have used for generations.

While I admire his goals, the way he is ignoring the locals concerns looks very callous.

The article does read that way. But it could be a case of a lazy writer badmouthing the subject of their piece and generating controversy. Jay Wilson, in his book about climbers, did a similar assassination job on Tompkins a few years ago, making the same claims of arrogance. Some background google searching showed Wilson's complaints to be unfounded, blown out of proportion, cherry-picked. The protests, then, were funded by wealthy industrial interests and the locals were mostly OK with what Tompkins was doing.

In 2014, who knows? I'd hope Tompkins would be smart enough (he's for sure wealthy enough) to hire people to think through the effects on the locals and get their support. This is not addressed in the article--a glaring omission.
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
Sep 16, 2014 - 11:05am PT
One of the conservation groups I have donated to makes it a point to involve the local tribes in Africa as part of their strategy. They teach how megafauna are far more valuable alive rather than as meat or, worse yet, as ivory or rhino horn.

If there is a problem animal the rangers are called and, if necessary, they dispatch it and distribute the meat (rhino is even tastier than buffalo).

There is still a huge problem with hungry people poaching for survival, but when tribes appreciate benefits from tourism they become allies rather than opponents.


Until we control human population we will continue to destroy nature and, with it, our very life support system.
We are well on the way to killing our oceans, and once that happens the chips will begin to fall ever faster.
Hopefully Tompkins will accomplish more than rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but it will require far more people to share the dream.
pyro

Big Wall climber
Calabasas
Sep 16, 2014 - 11:07am PT
http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/1472961/180-Degrees-South-Climbing-Surfing-Film
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 16, 2014 - 01:24pm PT
Easy for us to paint Tompkins et'c as big rich benevolent gringos and locals as poor farmers but I imagine it's a much more complex situation than painted in black and white
.
Like most things in this world. Many a logger and logging company decried the protection of the redwoods as it deprived them of their standard way of making a buck or, as they probably referred to it, "their way of life". I'm sure there were similar cries when Yellowstone was set aside. etc. In the grander scheme, people come and go but the land remains. As such, it's worth protecting.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 16, 2014 - 03:42pm PT
I just so happen to have a house on Lago General Carrera not far from what will eventually be Patagonia National Park....maybe I can provide some insight.
Patagonia, a region I have been visiting fo forty years, reminds me a lot of the American West. There is no industry and the few people who live there eke a hard existence raising a few cows. There used to be massive sheep estancias on the vast steppes that dominate the eastern two thirds of the region.
Starting a couple of decades ago overgrazing and a worldwide decline in wool prices started to devastate the estancias....hundreds have closed and are vacant and the rest are barely holding on.
One of the largest sheep estancias in Chile operated in the Chacabuco Valley an hours drive from my house. At it's peak 30,000 sheep grazed on beautiful steppes that extended inland between two mountain ranges. The company operating that estancia lost money for two decades before they decided to sell. But who would buy an unprofitable estancia? The likely scenario was that they would simply suspend operations, putting their gauchos out of work with poor prospects of finding new employment.
Doug and Kris saw the potential of the Chacabuco Valley....it's very unique in that a sliver of
the Patagonia steppes slices westward thru mountains providing a unique habitat for diverse wildlife.
Now hundreds of Guanacos graze where sheep did. Nandu are prevalent in the eastern section. Condors circle overhead and foxes and puma are abundant....AND immediately adjacent is the Jeinimeni Preserve with it's mountains, lakes and glaciers. Because of the work of the Thomkins this will all become, in a few short years, Patagonia National Park. This will be the most diverse park in Patagonia in terms of the topographical and biological diversity.
AND many of those same guachos who would have been unemployed now are working on developing the infrastructure and maintaining the operation.
JUST as in much of the American West, most of the economic future of Patagonia will be in eco tourisim. Places like the Patagonia National Park will not only attract these tourists, they will preserve the wonders of, what to me, is the most beautiful place on the planet.
Yeti

Trad climber
Ketchum, Idaho
Sep 16, 2014 - 04:44pm PT
Check these sites:
http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/aboutus.htm
http://www.deepecology.org/
http://www.parquepumalin.cl/en/index.htm
These will give the interested, as opposed to the armchair critic, some idea of the extent and depth of Doug's commitment to doing his best to preserve, repair and regenerate the natural systems of planet earth. In my view, Doug is a true visionary who cares deeply about the planet's environment and all that lives upon/from/within it. His efforts are among the brightest hopes that, for instance, your grandchildren and mine and those of all Chilean and Argentinians, will have a healthy, natural world instead of a deforested wasteland when they are Doug's age. VIVA DOUG TOMPKINS!!!
nah000

climber
canuckistan
Sep 16, 2014 - 06:11pm PT
the short and sweet version:

imperialism is imperialism.

even if it's from behind the flying of a green flag.



or the longer argument:

Peter Haan wrote:

But I thought the unique contribution of the article was the revelation of very heated and irrational resistance by local communities to these massive contributions Doug and Kris are making. Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

i've seen these types of situations [rural landowner meets the urbanically derived powerful] from both sides of the fence. to sum up this resistance as irrational is to be simplistically dismissive of the roots of said resistance. even though some parts of the surficially articulated resistance are quite obviously irrational, it should be equally obvious that the deeper roots are not without individuated truths and therefore rational substance.

in case it's not, i'd abstractly sum up the "good deed" as follows: create power for oneself in the imperialistic west selling emotionally manipulative and over priced products to the spiritually base. then renounce that, by exchanging the built business empire for cashpower. finally, manifest an individuated ideological empire in a foreign country by trading cashpower for the physical land of an often literally hungry and generally "developing" populace...

and there is serious question as to why there is "resistance"?

of course what tompkins says regarding overgrazing, etc is likely true. and i applaud the intentions... but as always, a reactionary swing to either pole, denying its necessary complement, is as absurd as the original folly.

specifically in this case, tompkins is of course correct regarding humans needing to find sustainable ways of living on the earth. but to then take those who have some of the most straight forward paths towards sustainable lifestyles and to remove them from their land via use of power that was derived from unsustainable western consumerism...

this is a good deed?

with all due respect to the good intentions of all involved... all i can do is laugh robustly.
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
mammoth lakes ca
Sep 16, 2014 - 06:39pm PT
I bet that Fritz guy from idaho is disappointed by the wool market slump...?
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:10pm PT
Imperialism? Come down and visit....me casa es su casa.
nah000

climber
canuckistan
Sep 16, 2014 - 07:20pm PT
donini:

not sure what you're implying above, but just in case: i don't think anyone has associated su casa with imperialism! haha...

regardless, i may just take you up on the invite... comtemplating a visit to the area this winter...
goatboy smellz

climber
लघिमा
Sep 16, 2014 - 09:29pm PT
donini

Because of the work of the Thomkins this will all become, in a few short years, Patagonia National Park. This will be the most diverse park in Patagonia in terms of the topographical and biological diversity.
AND many of those same guachos who would have been unemployed now are working on developing the infrastructure and maintaining the operation.
JUST as in much of the American West, most of the economic future of Patagonia will be in eco tourisim. Places like the Patagonia National Park will not only attract these tourists, they will preserve the wonders of, what to me, is the most beautiful place on the planet.

That is very admirable but how many of the local folks will be employed with maintaining the operation?

After all the fences are torn down and the shacks have been "beautified based on Tomkins personal tastes" what will the locals do for work? Will they just sell trinkets to "eco tourists"?

Will there be hotels built for these tourists? I guess the locals can clean the rooms and cook food for these travelers but will they still have identity, a culture, or are they relegated to servitude.

The argument that the land is more important than the people is justified and we need to save wild places for our grandchildren but is displacing a ranching culture and thousands of people worth it just so tourists who have destroyed paradise in their own countries can see what it was like before the government was in control of our lands and created national parks.

If it's anything like how the US has treated parks we should expect Patagonia will be less wilderness area and just another place to tax vistors for profit.

Maybe I should head down there now to set up a deli and pizza deck. Get in early before DNC or Vail Inc. has the concessions locked up. How's the skiing?
hashbro

Trad climber
Mental Physics........
Sep 16, 2014 - 10:25pm PT
Tompkins is a visionary, cares deeply for wild places and species


and is willing to make billions and give most of it to his cause.


a true hero!
rick sumner

Trad climber
reno, nevada/ wasilla alaska
Sep 16, 2014 - 11:03pm PT
After he disposes of the non compliant indigenous the place will be a perfect playground for priviledged monied interests. How much is he charging for time shares, will there be a limit on shares sold, what standards will be imposed to insure against entry by undesirables? Donini's place looks out of character with Tompkins vision theme, will it be acquired, razed, and its occupants escorted out of viewing range?
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Sep 17, 2014 - 06:09am PT
Interesting article. I'm happy to see Donini chime in since he has first hand knowledge about reality...unlike the armchair speculators. I'd wait a decade to see how it pans out before criticizing stuff that hasn't happened yet. (Do you see a fancy hotel full of millionaires in one of those photos? I don't).

I do find it a unfortunate that there is so much controversy with the locals. No one is ever going to be happy if they perceive that something they feel entitled to is being taken away. Doug didn't do himself any favors with how he handled the politics. The ranching simply isn't sustainable regardless of tradition. Life goes on. I have faith that people are adaptable.

All in all, I'm in favor of eccentric billionaire militant conservationists. We could use a few more IMO.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Sep 17, 2014 - 07:20am PT
Dear ladies and gentleman, let it be known that there are no indigenous people remaining in Patagonia. They were dealt with severely and effectively. Up until 1920 there was still a bounty on them.
In the 1950's the Chilean government concerned that Argentina might claim the then virtually unpopulated Aysen area of Patagonian Chile offered free land to settlers who would clear it. Clear it they did by burning it, The resultant fires got out of control and burned for years causing the destruction of vast areas of virgin temperate rain forest...an environmental disastor of epic proportions. The scars of these fires are still clear to see for anyone driving down the Carretara Austral (southern highway).
In recent years increased tourisim (sightseeing, flyfishing) has resulted in better opportunities for locals. Places like Coyhaique are booming and younger, environmentally minded, Chilean's are moving to the area.
As I have said, what I see happening has direct parallels to what has happened in many areas Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Western Colorado. These changes have both increased the livelihood of locals AND resulted in the REAL preservation of awesome, but endangered, wilderness.
steve shea

climber
Sep 17, 2014 - 07:23am PT
Right on Just the Maid! If not for the Rockefeller family and fortune we would not have Acadia NP in Maine, Grand Teton NP and other preserves and parks. Having lived near GTNP for the last 37 years and seen the development and growth surrounding the parks (Yellowstone), traveling through those areas would now be a trip across town. Instead we have the parks with warts. I'll take the parks. And thank you to those whose vision and altruism made it happen. I know, not the same, different culture etc. But the Patagonia effort will be appreciated in time.

BTW, Vail just bought Park City. The world is going to hell in a hand basket.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 17, 2014 - 07:46am PT
The ranching simply isn't sustainable regardless of tradition

Well, it isn't sustainable if it isn't done right. I stayed on an estancia
just east of Paine which has been sustainable since the family started it in
the late 1940's. It had an amazing amount of wildlife on it. Granted, they
did take a rather dim view of pumas when it came to their sheep, but on the
whole they were very good stewards of the land. They were also appreciative
of Doug Tompkin's efforts further east towards Rio Gallego.


Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Sep 17, 2014 - 12:15pm PT
Dear ladies and gentleman, let it be known that there are no indigenous people remaining in Patagonia. They were dealt with severely and effectively. Up until 1920 there was still a bounty on them
Thank you for pointing out what should have been a well acknowledged fact. If their history there is anything like the one here, then many of the ranchers are there precisely because of those government eradication efforts.

Also, I suspect part of the local reaction is the somewhat typical anti-Yanqui sentiment from certain groups in certain parts of South America. Probably not the best example, but look at the hostile reaction from locals to removing the bolts on the Compressor Route. That was also derided as an act of Yanqui imperialism. Some people play the race card, etc. Some play the imperialism card.
goatboy smellz

climber
लघिमा
Sep 18, 2014 - 01:21pm PT
Thanks donini the article did not separate indigenous folks and people who have been there only 100 years.

I'm far from an armchair speculation, I've seen plenty of examples from Oaxaca to British Colombia of rich people coming in buying up land for development for tourists aka surfers/skiers/climbers/hunters, and changing things against the wishes of the locals.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Sep 18, 2014 - 05:08pm PT
Smart comment Steve but if I recollect the Rockefeller's did carve out a nice chunk of property for their heritage? Seems like I was "escorted" off their property in the Tetons on several occasions.
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Sep 18, 2014 - 09:06pm PT
There is always the French alternative.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Sep 18, 2014 - 10:25pm PT
nice of them to name a town after me


or perhaps they had my ancestor in mind; Captain Cochrane (The Sea Wolf) who provided naval support to Simon Bolivar in evicting the Spanish empire from South America
hooblie

climber
from out where the anecdotes roam
Sep 19, 2014 - 07:37am PT
interesting parallels here:

http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/establishment-grand-teton-national-park

THANKS doug & kris and any locals with broader vision who can intermediate. i do hope the gaucho culture right sizes itself into an integrated, sustainable future
steve shea

climber
Sep 19, 2014 - 07:38am PT
Guido, you are correct that the Rockefellers were somewhat territorial with the JY and Whitegrass Ranch. Over the years, going in and out in all seasons, I got to know the ranch managers and they let us pass without a problem. Whitegrass/JY is no longer owned by the Rockefellers.It is now GTNP. They moved to an area near Poker Flats just by the southern entrance station on the Moose-Wilson road. Outside the park. That entrance station was not there when you were living here. Anyway, there is a new info/experience center dedicated to the Rockefellers for all they have done for GTNP. It's on the Moose-Wilson rd about halfway to Moose. But, to my knowledge they no longer have any in holdings in the park.

I remember though, sneaking through the ranch hoping not to get caught BITD. Mostly after skiing PK 10,552 in the spring. We would shortcut through the ranch back to the car on the MW road. Good memories.
Gorgeous George

Trad climber
Los Angeles, California
Sep 19, 2014 - 04:49pm PT
Imperialism, paternalism, elitism, take your pick. Yanqui is a fame of mind, that whats' yours is mine because I can take it, I have superior resources and power, and by God (who's on my side) I will do what I want, damn those of you who lived here before me.

A true revolutionary, in ideas and in action, wanting to do good with their wealth (gained in his past life when he conformed to society's artificial value on fashion and beauty) would go down and work with the people, meld in with them and work for a permanent and viable solution that strikes a balance between ecological goals and the needs of the humans. One must wonder why Tomkins reportedly doesn't like people. That he thinks he knows better than the locals and is willing to use his wealth in ways that disrespect them and their culture is the height of "Yanquisim."

Isn't it clear from the article that his ultimate goal is to leave a lasting legacy? Is it the legacy that is most important, or is it trying to save our planet by contributing to the higher evolution of the people that ultimately remain to be the steward of the land?
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