Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2020 issue.
Living a life close to nature has taught me to try and protect what I love by leading an examined life, bearing witness to the evils and injustices of the world and acting with whatever resources I have to fight those evils. This is something everyone needs to do in his or her own way. It’s not only a fragile planet, but a pretty small one too.
Wow. A single word perfectly introduces one of the most compelling and significant books to appear in decades. No one is better suited to offer “Some Stories: Lessons from the Edge of Business and Sport,” than the extraordinary Yvon Chouinard.
His visionary work is a call to save our planet. It’s also an exquisite reflection on an unparalleled life lived as an adventurer, businessman, family man and environmental activist. The founder and leader of Patagonia has traveled the world pursuing his passions of mountaineering, skiing, whitewater kayaking, fishing, falconry, and, still his favorite, surfing.
Chouinard advocates a single word for himself: Simplicity. Fishing for over a year with just one type of fly (read the book to discover his secret!) brought satisfaction and taught him responsible living.
Consider Patagonia’s mission statement which reads, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Chouinard walks the walk, continuing to influence his company into his eighth decade and to promote saving the planet.
“When we love something, we protect it,” he writes.
The first portion of “Some Stories” describes many of Chouinard’s conquests of the earth’s toughest peaks, sheer Yosemite rock walls, treacherous ice falls, raging rapids and curling pipelines. He muses on technology, and how equipment innovation has spiked human accomplishment and the definition of “mastery” in sport.
He poses the question, “Are we really better off? As sport matures, does it really get better?”
Perhaps a pure approach to sport involves more risk and effort, but the rewards might be greater. His text and accompanying photographs (his own and some from famous companions on his adventures) comprise a classic book in itself.
Chouinard segues into photo essays and factual discussions about issues confronting humankind, nature and the future of our planet. Often grimly realistic (“do it before they dam it”), he also remains optimistic. He empowers us with hope. He reminds us of our obligation to “cast a positive vote for life on Earth.” He believes in the inevitability of change, yet the potential to direct it.
“It’s easy to be depressed these days … but I like to remind myself that things change … It was like that with tobacco even though the medical world knew that smoking caused lung cancer … gay marriage, too. Unthinkable, and then … done.”
Since 1985, Patagonia has given one percent of sales to grassroots environmental groups working to preserve and restore the natural world. Today, One Percent for the Planet generates over $130 million a year to drive change.
Chouinard offers original words of wisdom throughout, but he also shares a favorite mantra from French writer and adventurer, Antoine St. Exupery of “The Little Prince”: Freedom is acceptance of responsibility.
“Some Stories” is not to be missed. It is a book to enjoy, enlighten and inspire on many levels. Yvon Chouinard invites you into the story of his signature life and the business of saving our earth.
“Some Stories” is published by Patagonia Books. Available online or at your local bookstore.
Photos courtesy of Jean Jullien.