Doug Tompkins, known as the founder of The North Face brand, is also a passionate, inspirational environmentalist. Having spent years in Patagonia, he took the concerns he had about the environment into his own hands. Tompkins worked on many projects to better the ecosystem in southern Chile as well as in the northeast of Argentina.
Interestingly enough, Tompkins was a high school dropout and self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie. Four years after founding The North Face, he created Espirit, both companies making him millions. But after a trip to Patagonia, everything changed. Tompkins called it the most important expedition of his life that “set the course for what he was going to do later in life.”
Tompkins sold his shares of The North Face and Espirit stating, “I just realized at least what I was doing was making a lot of stuff that nobody needed and pushing a consumerist society, so I went to do something else.” He was apparently a lover of breaking rules and had a strong dislike for authority, both of which led him to leading the life people dreamed of while the rest of the world sat behind a desk. Tompkins refused to work for The Man, and geared his passions towards preserving the environment in Argentina and Chile.
“Like many thinking people, we see biodiversity and ecosystems collapsing around us. So we’ve rolled up our sleeves and gotten to work. We have no choice: otherwise we might as well kiss our beautiful planet goodbye.” Tompkins helped not only to preserve the ecosystems of Patagonia, but also to grow them and expand even still. He purchased many farms, acres and various properties to restore the land and add it to protected areas.
In 1992, Tompkins created Conservation Land Trust, a foundation to support land conservation projects in both Chile and Argentina. Only two years later, the Conservation Land Trust had already acquired around 208,000 acres along the Chilean coast, which was added to Corcovado National Park. In the early 2000s, Tompkins made his way up to the northern region of Argentina, Corrientes, where he ended up purchasing almost 275,000 acres of failing agricultural land to restore. To this day, these properties have become of the highest-quality estancias (ranches) in the area.
Tompkins wasn’t all about land, though. He was also extremely passionate about the wildlife being able to reproduce and flourish in their natural habitat. In the wetlands of Ibera, Argentina, some species of animals have disappeared due to hunting and habitat loss. Tompkins and his team has worked hard to reintroduce animals such as the pampas deer and the giant anteater, both of which had been absent from Ibera for decades. The next big project is reintroducing the jaguar to the area, which will be a worldwide first.
However, on December 8th of 2015, the world suffered a great loss. Tompkins, age 72, died in a kayaking accident on what was supposed to be an easygoing camping trip with his friends. His legacy will continue to live on with help from his team, family and large amount of admirers that were inspired by his selfless work. Tompkins worked dutifully to better the world day by day, inspiring many and exemplifying unrelenting, contagious passion.
The day after his death, the Chilean government announced that one of Tompkins first purchased properties will become a National Park in March of 2017. Tompkins will be remembered for his bravery, selflessness and a eagerness to improve the planet that we live on. Doug Tompkins will be greatly missed.