The great legacy of Tomp­kins for Chile

Patagon Journal - - DOUGLAS TOMPKINS - By RI­CARDO LA­GOS Ri­cardo La­gos was pres­i­dent of Chile from 2000-2006.

Dou­glas Tomp­kins was ahead of his time. En­am­oured early on with na­ture and all it has to of­fer, he ar­rived to Chile in the 1960s as a young man to go camp­ing and to climb Fitz Roy, that moun­tain that faces both Chile and Ar­gentina deep in Patag­o­nia. The friends who trav­eled with him on that trip, like him, all later be­came in­flu­en­tial busi­ness­men.

From his in­ter­est in the out­door life, he gained an un­der­stand­ing of the need for a trans­for­ma­tion in out­door gear to make it more com­fort­able when out in na­ture. He made his for­tune in this niche and did not hes­i­tate to in­vest those re­sources in what for him was the most es­sen­tial thing of all: preserving na­ture on our planet for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

He re­turned to Chile in the 1990's at a time when few peo­ple were talk­ing about bio­di­ver­sity; they had just be­gun to think about cli­mate change and the Ky­oto Pro­to­col of 1998 was still a long way off.

I met him when I was the pub­lic works min­is­ter, we dis­cussed the Car­retera Aus­tral, and later when I was pres­i­dent, he pro­posed do­nat­ing 80,000 hectares (197,684 acres) to cre­ate a na­tional park

with the hope that the army would con­trib­ute an­other 80,000 hectares and the state an ad­di­tional 100,000 hectares (247,105 acres). Thus Cor­co­v­ado Na­tional Park was born, host­ing that ma­jes­tic vol­cano of the same name on the shores of the Pa­cific, where the long An­dean moun­tain range plunges into the sea.

I re­mem­ber the sus­pi­cions and mis­un­der­stand­ings when he ar­rived here. What is this for­eigner try­ing to do, buy­ing lands that are sup­pos­edly des­tined only for preser­va­tion? What is his busi­ness that he has to buy a glob­ally unique tem­per­ate rain­for­est, with 4,000-yearold alerce trees, to build a Pu­malín Park? His pi­o­neer­ing ac­tiv­i­ties en­abled Chile to be­gin to un­der­stand the for­est wealth that it had, much of it in near vir­gin con­di­tion, and what was nec­es­sary to con­serve.

That was the great legacy of Tomp­kins, a legacy bet­ter un­der­stood af­ter his death. Now, the Chilean govern­ment will re­ceive Pu­malín Park as a do­na­tion, along with sev­eral other of his prop­er­ties, and will have the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­tin­u­ing the work that Dou­glas Tomp­kins be­gan, that is, to be ca­pa­ble of pro­mot­ing the en­joy­ment of na­ture while at the same time preserving it. To un­der­stand that dur­ing our life­times, we don't own the planet but rather are brief ten­ants with an obli­ga­tion to take care of our en­vi­ron­ment and pro­tect it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. To learn to do this well is the les­son that Dou­glas Tomp­kins has left us.

Par­que Na­cional Cor­co­v­ado. ( Pho­tos: An­to­nio Viz­caino/ América Nat­u­ral)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Chile

© PressReader. All rights reserved.