The Tompkins Conservation is an umbrella of non-profit organisations devoted to South America’s environment, biodiversity, ecosystems and all this entails. It was founded by Kristine and the late Doug Tompkins, with a powerful social and conscientious mission statement at its core. Both Kris and Doug were social business operators, where profit wasn’t the fundamental motivator and environmental sustainability played a huge step along every bit of the way. Outdoor adventures and entrepreneurship played a pivotal role in both of their early development and went a long way in informing their world view.
Doug founded the now world-famous clothing brand The North Face in 1964 to make and sell outdoor equipment. It was in the 1980s that he became increasingly interested in environmental activism, even culminating in him selling his stake in another large venture which he co-founded with his first wife Suzie, because he wasn’t happy with their social responsibility and consumer culture.
This was after leading a youthful life of climbing, surfing, skiing and travel, at this stage not knowing he would later turn into the world’s most influential and successful conservationist. Although Doug was raised in New York and Kris southern California, distance wouldn’t keep them apart forever. Kris, after getting her degree while competing as a down-hill ski racer, joined Patagonia Inc. and during her 20 years as CEO helped shift it into the socially responsible company it remains today. Their shared love of the wild brought them together and in 1993 they tied the knot.
Their adventurous spirit and early desire for travel, would lead the Tompkins on a mission to protect South America’s great wildernesses. Patagonia, the vast southern tip of South America, stood out as a place with enormous potential since southern Chile and Argentina was under serious environmental threat. The overwhelming pressure of globalisation was coming in the form of mining, forestry, hydroelectric dams and industrial aquaculture. Since marriage, the couple were living in the very place they now wanted to protect. They witnessed first-hand the effects of short-sighted human development and destructive interaction with the natural world. It was their love of scenic views and incredible biodiversity that inspired the mission of restoration, conservation and sustainability.
In 2000, Conservation Patagonica was established with the mission to create national parks in Patagonia, saving and restoring the wildlife and wildlands. Doug’s death in 2015 cemented Kris’s goal of inspiring conservation of the natural world, which she still achieves today. His memory lives on in everything he achieved in the quarter century that he fought for conservation, including the Tompkins Conservation trust fund, carrying on the pioneering efforts in cutting-edge environmental activism.
Tompkins Conservation Today
A recent agreement between Kristine and the President of Chile, hailed the largest land donation from a private entity to a country in world history. The deal set in motion the transfer of 1 million acres to the country’s government to be set aside for new national parks.
This historic deal also pledged to create 11 million acres of new national parks upon completion. Once fully realised, this will include five new national parks and a further expansion on three others. A ‘Route of Parks’ is to be created, a 17-park network spanning 1,500 miles from the bottom of Cape Horn up to Puerto Montt, nearing central Chile. Kristine and Douglas believed that creating national parks was the Gold Standard of conservation efforts, since they believed biodiversity loss was the biggest crisis of our age.
On the day of signing on 15 March 2017, Kristine paid a touching tribute to her late husband. ‘I wish my husband Doug, whose vision inspired today’s historic pledge, were here on this memorable day. Our team and I feel his absence deeply. But I know that if Doug were here today, he would speak of national parks being one of the greatest expressions of democracy that a country can realise, preserving the masterpieces of a nation for all of its citizenry.’