Douglas Tompkins


It doesn’t seem to be worth wasting a lot of energy on attempting to rewrite the past. Turn around and take a step forward. A lot of people, in your generation in particular, are starting to see where it’s going. The organic food movement, the Occupy movement—they’re all trying to pull the brakes. The environmental and social-justice movements, less so.  They still want progress so they can spread the wealth around after.

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Nature Conservationist, Ecologist, Localist, Wilderness Advocate, Mountaineer, Environmental Activist,
Organic Farmer & Philanthropist

Douglas Tompkins co-founded and ran two clothing companies: the outdoor clothing company The North Face and the ESPRIT clothing company. Since leaving the business world in 1989, Tompkins has dedicated himself to environmental activism and land conservation. Along with his wife, Kris Tompkins, he has bought and conserved over 2 million acres (8,100 km2) of wilderness in Chile and Argentina, more than any other private individual. Together, the two have focused on park creation, wildlife recovery, ecological agriculture, and activism with the overarching goal of saving biodiversity while leading others to do the same. He is one of the largest private land-owners in the world. Tompkins has supported activist groups in North and South America, and he has helped produce numerous campaign-related books on topics such as industrial forestry, factory farming, and coal mining. After selling his interest in Esprit, Tompkins moved to south Chile, where he had spent much time climbing, kayaking, and skiing, to devote himself to land conservation and environmental activism. He founded the Foundation for Deep Ecology in 1990, which supports environmental activism, and The Conservation Land Trust in 1992, which works to protect wildlands, primarily in Chile and Argentina. Unlike many land conservationists, Tompkins has always been both a conservationist and environmental activist. Through his Foundation for Deep Ecology, he has published a series of large-format, photo activist books on various environmental issues. These include Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy, Fatal Harvest: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture, Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West, and Clearcut: The Tragedy of Industrial Forestry.

In addition, The Foundation for Deep Ecology had a long history as a generous grant-maker in categories such as Biodiversity & Wilderness, Ecological Agriculture, and Megatechnology & Economic Globalization, although in-house publishing is now its main focus. In addition, Tompkins has been involved in several large environmental campaigns in Chile and Argentina, such as the Chilean Patagonia Sin Represas campaign, which is opposing the construction of five dams on two of Patagonia’s largest and wildest rivers. Despite considerable controversy within Chile and Argentina, Tompkins’ environmental work has won him respect and accolades outside of South America: in 2012, the African Rainforest Conservancy awarded Doug and wife Kris their “New Species Award; in 2007, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation awarded their “Good Steward” award to him and his wife Kris; in 2008, the American Alpine Club awarded him the David R. Brower Award in 2009, for his work preserving mountain regions; in 2009, Latin Trade named him the “Environmental Leader of the Year.” In 2007, he was appointed as an honorary member of the American Society of Landscape Architects, in recognition of his work restoring damaged landscapes. Eco Barons Edward Humes’s 2009 account of the “dreamers, schemers, and millionaires who are saving our planet,” uses Tompkins as the first example of this new group of philanthropists.