10 Most Profound Passages From 'Let My People Go Surfing'
Ten years after its original publication, Patagonia's founder, Yvon Chouinard, has revised and expanded his beloved book Let My People Go Surfing—"the philosophical manual for the employees of Patagonia."
I read Chouinard's original book nearly a decade ago and was fortunate to get him to sign my treasured copy in 2013 when he was in Cleveland, Ohio, to receive the Inamori Ethics Prize, which honored his integrity as a business leader and lifetime commitment to corporate social responsibility.
Though more than 40 percent of the republished book contains new material, I relished the parts that were from the original edition, remembering how his words have impacted my business decisions over the years. However, the new parts of the book are inspiring as well. "The purpose of the revised edition," as Chouinard tells us in the preface, "is to share what we have done in the last decade and what we plan to do in the decades ahead to achieve our goals."
I especially enjoyed the new foreword by renowned author and activist Naomi Klein, asking, "What if we shopped to live, instead of lived to shop?"
Klein sums up the book by saying: "This is the story of an attempt to do more than change a single corporation—it is an attempt to challenge the culture of consumption that is at the heart of the global ecological crisis."
Though I highly recommend reading the entire book, I wanted to share the passages I found especially profound.
Here are 10 of my favorite quotes from the self-proclaimed "reluctant businessman":
1. "I read every book on business, searching for a philosophy that would work for us. I was especially interested in books on Japanese or Scandinavian styles of management because I knew the American way of doing business offered only one of many possible routes."
2. "Our philosophies aren't rules; they're guidelines. They're the keystone of our approach to any project, and although they are 'set in stone,' their applications to a situation isn't. In every long-lasting business, the methods of conducting business may constantly change, but the values, the culture and the philosophies remain constant."
3. From a series of Patagonia ads in 2004: "Who are businesses really responsible to? Their customers? Shareholders? Employees? We would argue that it's none of the above. Fundamentally, businesses are responsible to their resource base. Without a healthy environment there are no shareholders, no employees, no customers and no business."
Doug Tompkins, founder of The North Face and Esprit, with Yvon Chouinard in Patagonia, 1992.Rick Ridgeway
4. "Cotton fields contribute millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. A conventional cotton field stinks; its chemicals burn the eyes and nauseate the stomach. Before harvesting in non-frost regions like California, cotton has to be sprayed by a crop duster with the defoliant Paraquat, about half of which hits the target. The rest settles over the neighbors' fields and into our streams.
"None of this is necessary. No cotton was grown this way before World War II, when many of the chemicals now used in agriculture were first developed as nerve gases for warfare.
"When we first started looking for alternatives, organic cotton was available from a few family farmers in California and Texas. We experimented. At first we made only T-shirts with organic cotton. Then, after several trips to the San Joaquin Valley, where we could smell the selenium ponds and see the lunar landscape of cotton fields, we asked a critical questions: How could we continue to make products that laid waste to the Earth in this way? In the fall of 1994, we made the decision to take our cotton sportswear 100 percent organic by 1996."
5. "Remember, work has to be fun. We value employees who live rich and rounded lives. We run a flexible workplace, and we have ever since we were a blacksmith shop that shut down whenever the waves were six feet, hot and glassy. Our policy has always allowed employees to work flexible hours, as long as the work gets done with no negative impacts on others. A serious surfer doesn't plan to go surfing next Tuesday at two o'clock. You go surfing when there are waves and the tide and wind are right."
6. "People may be afraid of the term 'activist' because they associate it with ecosabotage and violent protests, but I'm talking about normal citizens who want the government to live up to its obligations to protect our air, water and all other natural resources. Activists have an infectious passion about the issues they support, whether they are mothers fighting to clean up toxic landfills that are killing their children or farmers trying to hold on to their fourth-generation family business threatened by urban sprawl. These are the people on the front lines, trying either to make the government obey its own laws or to recognize the need for a new law."
Inspiring news & a great example of what a few people can accomplish w/ dedication. https://t.co/ErHTKrTbjF cc: @RobertKennedyJr #Futaleufu— Leonardo DiCaprio (@Leonardo DiCaprio)1473814499.0
As world leaders scramble to find climate change solutions, the film is helping to both combat the myth of "green hydro" dams and show that dam removal is proving to be a powerful tool to restore endangered wildlife, reduce methane emissions, build coastal resiliency and eliminate public safety hazards.
Patagonia makes a stand with the gauchos.Tim Davis
8. "It pains me to bear witness to the sixth great extinction, where we humans are directly responsible for the complete destruction of so many wonderful creatures and invaluable indigenous cultures. It saddens me especially to observe the plight of our own species; we appear to be incapable of solving our problems." ... "I'm a total pessimist about the fate of the natural world. In my lifetime, I've seen nothing but a constant deterioration of all the processes that are essential to maintaining healthy life on Planet Earth ... Thinking these dark thoughts doesn't depress me; in fact, I'm a happy person. I'm a Buddhist about it all. I've accepted the fact that there is a beginning and an end to everything. Maybe the human species has run its course and it's time for us to go away and leave room for other, one hopes, more intelligent and responsible, life forms."
Protestors demand attention in Eureka, California.Amy Kumler
9. "Before we are entitled to encourage other companies to act responsibly we have to do so ourselves. There's only one way to lead, and that's by being in front and leading by example. Our environmental assessment program educates us, and with education we have choices. When we act positively on solving problems instead of ignoring them or trying to find a way around them, we are further along the path toward sustainability. Every time we've elected to do the right thing, it's turned out to be more profitable."
10. "The zen master would say if you want to change government, you have to aim at changing corporations, and if you want to change corporation, you first have to change the consumers. Whoa, wait a minute! The consumer? That's me. You mean I'm the one who has to change?"
Listen here as Chouinard reads the prologue:
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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