Yvon Chouinard, Time's up
In an open letter Yvon Chouinard, mountaineer, surfer, fly fisherman and founder of "Patagonia", the famous American outdoor clothing company explains how urgent and pressing the envirnmental issue is.
|Save the environment, save the earth! We all agree on this, we're all in favour. But it's extremely difficult to understand what the sustainable impact of our progress on this plant is, and what road to take to heed off this increasingly alarming emergency. |
In an open letter published below, Yvon Chouinard, mountaineer, surfer, fly fisherman and founder of "Patagonia", the famous American outdoor clothing company explains how urgent and pressing this issue is.
Conservation, renewable energy and human ingenuity, before it's too late. And Chouinard's appeal obviously goes much further than to the American people, called to vote on November 2nd...
by Yvon Chouinard
According to various polls, Americans by a 4-to-1 margin support stronger environmental laws – and tougher enforcement.
But debate about environmental policy does not loom large in presidential election years and never has. Other issues elbow to the front of the national consciousness: jobs and the economy, security and war, health care, the price at the pump, education. We argue that environmental concerns trump all others.
America is now well on course to leave our children if not a dying country, one that is irreversibly damaged in all ways that count. In recent years, this country has suffered serious erosion of its hard-won environmental protection measures. We have to correct course now.
A few quick facts about the twin heads of the environmental beast that confronts us: Between 1950 and 2000, world population more than doubled and economic activity increased sevenfold. The change to life in the United States has been extraordinary. We were no paradise in 1950; ask anyone who lived in Pittsburgh then, or near a Nevada test site. But the Great Plains still had its aquifer and most of its topsoil, the Northwest still had its salmon runs and much of its forests, acid rain had not deadened every third Northeastern lake and the Everglades had more freshwater than salt. We had twice as many acres of wetlands as we have now. We had more acres of rangeland and they were in better shape. The oceans off our coasts teemed with fish. There was as yet no Northwest Passage through the melting polar ice cap. There were no factory farms; pesticides had come only recently into use. The countryside had not yet been industrialized.
That was then. In 2004, we are no longer overpruning the branches of the fruits of the earth: we are chopping away at the roots. Where will it lead?
Consider that American babies born this election year will turn 46 in 2050. What will their world be like if we continue to roll back our modest gains of cleaner air and water? Or continue to tolerate ever-increasing waste and toxicity as ordinary by-products of human activity? Or fail to reach accord with other nations to reduce carbon emissions? Or maintain the same standard of living as most Europeans yet go on using twice the nonrenewable energy?
Forecasting is an imprecise art, but here are a few basic strokes to the picture. Even Pentagon planners are concerned that global climate change may reach a tipping point, after which widespread drought would turn farmland into dust and forests to ash. Even without accelerated weather change, parts of the Great Plains and Midwest will become desert as the Ogallala aquifer further shrinks. In Appalachia, more mine waste will choke more rivers below more decapitated mountaintops. The soil of Californias San Joaquin Valley will be too polluted to grow food. There will be fewer wetlands and forests to sustain fewer species of birds, fish and mammals. By 2050, our children will pay dearly for scarce water as well as energy and food. Ditto for national security, because large parts of Africa and Asia will suffer great harm induced by global warming before we do. Cancer incidence will be higher; viruses are likely to be stronger.
Our children will not miss the world we know now, as we do not miss the world our parents knew in 1950. Memories are short. The natural world we have, diminished from the one our parents knew, will slowly become irretrievable to the imagination. But the dread we now suffer, dread none of our parents could imagine in 1950, will play a central role in our childrens lives – face to face, as they may be, against the failure of the earth to sustain itself as an organism complex and resilient enough to support a species as extractive and destructive as ours.
We can do better than that. And we do know how to do better: to conserve our dwindling fresh water supply, to switch to renewable energy. Three states alone have the wind power to provide electricity to the nation as a whole. We do not have to pay public subsidies to poison our fields. We have the capacity to develop a sophisticated, low-impact agriculture free of pesticides. We are beginning to understand how to make products from recycled materials that can be recycled again, which would bring to a close the era of junk. And we can save wildlands to give a diversity of species a rest from exploitation and some distance from the human hand.
We can use our human ingenuity to steward rather than pillage our remaining inheritance. But the need is urgent. Many ecologists think that turnaround may not be possible much longer.
Jobs and the economy, national security, health care, education: all are important. But this is the time to vote the environment first – locally, statewide, nationally – so that a civil human society and a survivable planet will be possible by the time this years babies reach early middle age.
Vote the environment November 2nd.
Yvon Chouinard. Pionierer of big wall climbing in Yosemite, completed numerous important first ascents, including "North America Wall" and "Muir Wall" in Yosemite and "American Route" Fitzroy, Patagonia. often defined as the father of Amenrican ice climbing, in 1957 the nineteen year old began his commercial activities producing carabineers and pegs. Together with Tom Frost he founded Chouinard Equipment, Ltd, (now Black Diamond, Equipment), which revolutionised climbing equipment and quickly became a reference point for quality and design. His decision to abandon the production of pegs in favour of nuts in the 1970's due to the impact they left on the rock, heralded the start of the "Clean climbing" era. In 1973 Chouinard founded the clothing equipment company Patagonia, and in 2001 he founded "1% For The Planet, Inc." an alliance of businesses committed to donating at least one percent of their annual net revenues to environmental organizations worldwide...
Photos from top to bottoom: Yvon Chouinard (photo Ted Wood): Cerro Torre, Patagonia (photo M. Cominetti); sea lion, Punto Valdez, Patagonia (photo N. Hobley); glacier, Patagonia (photo M. Cominetti).