From Angling Trade Magazine by Kirk Deeter
Game… set… match.
Take a knee… clock expires.
Summit ascended… wave ridden… blue marlin landed…
However you want to frame it, Yvon Chouinard, the 83-year-old founder of Patagonia (and his family) recently did something so extraordinary, so unbelievable, that nobody can remember seeing anything quite like it, and nobody in their right business mind should ever expect to see it again.
The Chouinards GAVE Patagonia, the multi-billion-dollar enterprise Yvon built from scratch from fashioning climbing equipment from his California garage (now also one of the most iconic brands in fly fishing, because Yvon loves fly fishing)… away.
“The earth is in peril… thanks for caring, outdoorsy people… put your money where your mouths are. I just did,” Chouinard might have said. Or something like that. But he didn’t say that. He just did it, it for the purpose of combatting climate change and saving the wild places on this planet.
In sum, the company will now be run as a for-profit entity, but the ownership rests with trusts set up to battle climate change. You buy a pair of waders… you battle climate change. You give your sister a fleece for the holidays… you’re protecting the planet. (As it always has been with Patagonia, now stepped up a level.)
With respect to fly fishing and this “industry” we all work in, I’m struck with three thoughts.
First… THANK YOU. Rather than just reporting what went down, I think the first thought should be gratitude. I think everyone in fly fishing owes a debt of gratitude to Chouinard. If you’re a fly shop, whether you carry the Patagonia brand or not, say thank you. If you make rods or reels, or lines or widgets… say thanks. Even if you make waders and boots, fleeces and pack and have been fighting Patagonia for market share… say thank you also, because Patagonia totally threw down in support of the natural resources that make your business possible in the first place. Conservation organizations, say thank you, but don’t get caught up in the ugly money-grubbing game. Just do things that affect positive change.
Second, Chouinard’s actions should end any climate change debates within our industry. The science is clear. This move underscored a level of urgency we’ve never seen from any entity in corporate America before. If you don’t think climate change is important, and if you don’t think it matters to all outdoor recreation, indeed, human quality of life—maybe you think the answer is to kick the can down the road for another generation to face—please just think a bit deeper.
Third, Chouinard has set a bar, and we, as a fly-fishing community should endeavor to match it. I know, I don’t have a billion dollars to my name, and never will either. Heck, if I had a billion dollars, I don’t know that I’d do what Chouinard did. And I’m not expecting, nor calling for others to match the dollars, whether they have the means or not. There are many, many, many wonderful, committed companies who do a helluva lot for conservation already. And I commend them for that.
But we, as an industry, have a lot more we can and should do in support of the conservation that makes our sport possible in the first place. The fly-fishing industry’s support of conservation, as a whole, is embarrassingly light in comparison to what others—hunting, skiing, etc. pour into supporting their sports. “Cause-related marketing” is the thing now, but we really need to decide whether we’re an “extractive” industry, or if we stand for something better than that.
As all of us in this fly-fishing world consider what just happened with Patagonia, I think we should endeavor to make a billion-dollar “match.” Maybe it isn’t money. Maybe it’s a billion- dollars-worth of action. Think about your own habits and patterns as they relate to climate change. Can you tweak something? Can you burn a little less gas? Can you support companies that stand face-forward against climate change, and in favor of making waters cleaner, clearer, and more productive?
Can we, as a cohesive, dedicated fly-fishing community match, through actions, words, and, sure, money, the standard just set by Yvon Chouinard?
The answer is yes… or at least it should be.
And the time to start acting is now.