“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” – Doug and Kris Tompkins
About this time of year in 2010, David and I flew to Chile to meet Kris and Doug Tompkins. We were interested in learning more about their vision—which was an ambitious one—to create national parks in Chile and Argentina on a scale never seen before in Latin America. They were inspired by the Rockefeller legacy of National Parks in the United States and were committed to protecting millions of pristine acres.
After that visit, we went on to spend time with Kris and Doug in New York City, Upstate New York, and Maine. We shared a passion for ecology and agriculture, poetry and design and even danced under the night sky at the Desert Rhino Camp in Namibia Africa. When we heard of Doug’s kayaking accident in December we were devastated for Kris’ loss as well as for the loss of such a visionary ecologist and explorer. David and I were fortunate to witness the community of people who loved Doug at his memorial celebration in California.
Doug and Kris, like early national park advocate John Muir, were on a mission to protect nature for its own sake—and understood that biologically diverse and healthy ecosystems would emerge from proper stewardship.
The service started with “Imagine” by John Lennon, moved into “I Shall Be Released” by Bob Dylan, and ended with Gary Snyder reading the poem “For The Children.” Kris and Doug’s love was beautiful—a life together that was purposeful and incredibly well lived.
Tom Butler, President of the Foundation of Deep Ecology, spoke about Doug and Kris’ work. He stated that Doug will be considered one of the greatest conservationists of our time. Having acquired millions of acres of land by creating five new national parks in Chile and Argentina, his work was unprecedented. Fortunately, this is not over as Kris will continue to complete this legacy and work for beauty, integrity, health, and wildness.
At the memorial celebration I was reminded, as always, of gratitude, the preciousness of time, and protecting what is precious.
Doug always said, “Commit, then figure it out.” I love this — and hope to bring more of this sort of passionate conviction into my own life. Perhaps these words will motivate others as well, especially in terms of caring for our environment. Nothing would make Doug happier.