Yvon Chouinard

Oceans as Wilderness

Recorded: September 8, 2013

Will our oceans survive? What can we do to help protect them? In this brief video, Yvon Chouinard shares his deep concern about the threats to our oceans and suggests how we might treat them differently so that they will survive.

Yvon Chouinard was born in Maine and spoke French Canadian until his family moved to Los Angeles and he started school.   In his teens, his interest in falconry led him to rappel down mountains to view their nests; and his connection to the wilds and mountains has never diminished.  In 1966, Yvon co-founded Chouinard Equipment/Great Pacific Iron Works in Ventura, California with fellow climber Tom Frost.  By the end of the 1970s, the company was selling climbing clothes as well, starting with imported rugby shirts from England.  In 1984 Patagonia, Inc. was incorporated as subsidiary of the Lost Arrow Corporation.

Yvon Chouinard is famous for saying that he’s never gotten a good idea sitting at his desk, and he lives by this motto.  His ideas have often come while on a mountain, or while surfing, fishing, or a number of other activities he spent decades enjoying.  His outdoor feats were also ways to test the durability of gear and wearability of Patagonia’s colorful clothes.

Both he and his wife, Lost Arrow co-owner, Malinda Chouinard, committed long ago to ensure that their clothing is produced in the least destructive way for all concerned.  That kind of integrity and commitment has made Patagonia successful.  To give back, he co-created One Percent for the Planet with an alliance of businesses, and in 2012 Patagonia became a B Corp, in part to use the company to inspire and implement solutions.  The “B” stands for benefiting– workers, the community and the environment.  He authored the book, Let my People go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.

Yvon and Malinda live in Ventura, California and Moose, Wyoming.  They have two children and one grandchild.

Yvon Chouinard:    Climate change is something that we didn’t even think about 20 years ago.

Huey:    Yeah, right.

Yvon Chouinard:    And it’s, it’s pretty much the bottom line.  I’ve often thought about what’s going to happen first, are we going to run out of petroleum or are we going to run out of topsoil, are we going to run out of water?  Well, we’re going to run out of water number one I think, first before anything happens.

And I think before, before the real Armageddon, I think we’re going to destroy the oceans.  It’s – we don’t — you know, we do a lot of work with land trusts and protecting big areas of land, I mean we’re work – I’m involved a lot with creating big national parks in South America and stuff, but the idea of creating national parks in the oceans, big areas, no fish zones and stuff, that’s, that’s something really new and I don’t know whether we have time before the oceans all acidify and are completely polluted and we lose the whole food chain in the ocean.  And you know people don’t realize that a lot of the oxygen that we need to survive is made from the ocean, not just from trees and bushes and stuff.  So it’s a – we really have to seriously look at treating the oceans the same as we treat our so-called wilderness.