Quantcast

North Face Co-Founder Dies in Kayaking Accident

Douglas Tompkins, co-founder of The North Face and Esprit and a life-long environmentalist, died Tuesday at the age of 72 in a kayaking accident in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Tompkins and five friends' kayaks capsized on General Carrera Lake.

Tompkins spent a “considerable amount of time" in waters below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the New York Times, and ultimately died in the intensive care unit at a hospital in the area due to severe hypothermia.

"He had lost consciousness and wasn't breathing" when brought to the hospital by helicopter, said Carlos Salazar, a doctor who treated him. The other members of the boating excursion were rescued on the lake by the Chilean army. No one else was seriously injured.

Army officials say that unpredictable weather and strong waves, which caused the boats to capsize, are common occurrences on the lake. Tompkins was "a lifelong outdoorsman," according to the Times, and a passionate conservationist.

“He flew airplanes, he climbed to the top of mountains all over the world,” said his daughter Summer Tompkins Walker. “To have lost his life in a lake and have nature just sort of gobble him up is just shocking.”

Tompkins founded The North Face as a small retail shop in the mid-1960s in San Francisco. After five years, he sold the company for $50,000, and he and his first wife Susie (now the entrepreneur and Democratic donor Susie Tompkins Buell) founded the clothing company Esprit, which would end up making the couple millionaires.

In the 1990s, Tompkins divorced his first wife, agreed to a buyout from Esprit, and he and his second wife Kris (former CEO of Patagonia) sold their shares and moved to Chile, where they lived for the past two decades. The couple made the move because they wanted "to focus full-time on conservation in Patagonia," reported The Guardian in 2009. In those last two decades, the Tompkins bought up an astonishing 2.2 million acres of wilderness for parks and reserves.

"We only have one shot at this," Tompkins told The Guardian. "... we need to pay our dues to live on this Earth; we need to pay the rent and I'm doing that with the work we are carrying out here in Patagonia." The entrepreneur-turned-environmentalist poured $300 million into reserves and environmental causes through his private charitable foundations.

The Guardian reported:

Parque Pumalin [...] is owned by one of these foundations—almost 800,000 acres of temperate rainforest stretching from the Chilean coast to the Andes. It holds 25 percent of the world's remaining Alerce trees, related to the giant Sequoias of California, as well as pristine waterfalls, lakes, campgrounds, cabins and trails. It doesn't stop there. To the southeast of Pumalin, in Valle Chacabuco, a former sheep ranch is being restored to grasslands and 300 miles of fences have been removed. The locals have become guides, restoration specialists and wildlife managers, just as small farmers around Pumalin have become park employees and organic farmers.

In the Argentine province of Santa Cruz, [Kris] McDivitt Tompkins used $1.7 million from her Patagonian Land Trust to buy the 155,000-acre Estancia Monte Leon. Endangered deer, sea lions and elephant seals take refuge here, along with Magellanic penguins. Her foundation gave the land, as well as a management plan, to Argentina as the Monte Leon National Park in 2004. The newest project is to rescue an area in subtropical Argentina where giant anteaters, tapirs and jaguar will be reintroduced.

The projects have not come without controversy, which has been covered extensively by The Guardian, Chicago Tribune and Earth Island Journal. Despite the controversy, Tompkins will be remembered fondly in the environmental community for his dedication to environmental causes.

"Doug was a passionate advocate for the environment," The North Face told the Associated Press. "His legacy of conservation will help ensure that there are outdoor spaces to be explored for generations to come."

"For the environmental movement, not just in Chile but internationally, [Tompkins' death] is a huge loss," said Sara Larrain, a long-time friend of Tompkins who leads a Chilean environmental group. "This is somebody who put all his energy, all his fortune and his spirit in preserving ecosystems."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Prince Harry’s Moving Photos From Africa Trip Show Brutal Reality of Poaching

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.

Read More Show Less

gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

By Nicole Greenfield

Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
TeamDAF / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
The Eqip Sermia Glacier is seen behind a moraine left exposed by the glacier's retreat during unseasonably warm weather on Aug. 1 at Eqip Sermia, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Andrew Yang's assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
hadynyah / E+ / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

Read More Show Less

Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

DESIREE MARTIN / AFP / Getty Images

Wildfires raging on Gran Canaria, the second most populous of Spain's Canary Islands, have forced around 9,000 people to evacuate.

Read More Show Less