Crumbs

What do you do with $150 million and an overpowering desire to save the earth? You sell out your comfy life and buy your own Yosemite.

As a teenager in the early 60's, Douglas Tompkins moved to California and worked there as a mountain guide. He borrowed $5,000 to start a clothing company called The North Face, one of the first companies to capitalize on the outdoor sports boom, then sold it a few years later for $50,000 and started Esprit clothing. By the mid-eighties, Esprit's sales worldwide had topped $1 billion. During this time, Tompkins spent much time in Chile with his climbing partner and fellow fashion designer Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.

Douglas Tompkins, the now 66 year old millionaire sold out a successful career to devote himself to saving the earth. Starting in 1991, after he walked away from Esprit and moved to South America to devote his life to conservation, Tompkins has made dozens of separate land deals in Chile's Region X where the southern wilderness begins. His aim has been to create with world's biggest private nature reserve, which he calls Pumalin Park. Land was cheap in this part of the country. His first 24,700 acres-purchased, as were many of his holdings, from absentee foreign owners-cost him just $600,000, with a herd of cows thrown in. "Less than a condo in San Francisco", he says. Since his first purchase, he has added to his collection of land another 700,000 acres all in the name of conserving the rainforest and ecosystem from possible exploitation. The park includes active volcanoes, calving glaciers, 4,000 year old trees and a wildlife list that reads like a who's who of protected species.

Tompkins recalls, "When we were part of the fashion business, we were part of the problem," he says. Now, he argues, he is at least less of a part of it. "There's a phenomenon I call eco-lite. This is when you are worried about the environment and you try to write another message on top of the advertising budget. We did it at Esprit to an extent. Bennetton does it. But I say that if Luciano Bennetton sold his company tomorrow and put all his assets into a foundation that was dedicated 100 percent to what is supposed to be his viewpoint, he'd make more of an impact, one heck of an impact. The same thing with the Patagonia company. I keep telling Yvon Choinard that if they want to put a real dent in things they should just sell up and take all the proceeds and work 100 percent on what they believe in. Instead, they have to spend 90 percent of their effort just to keep the wheels going. When I was at Esprit," he concludes, "I spent 20 hours a day on the business and only a few hours thinking about bigger issues. Now I have 24 hours a day to concentrate on what really matters."

Some days I feel like that. I feel like I am spending 90 percent of my effort just keeping the wheels going instead of working 100 percent in what I believe in and I am positive that I am not alone. How is it that we overwrite our lives with appearances and "marketing strategies" to replace risky adventure with a safe and comfortable life. I am encouraged by reading about people that sell out on the easy life and pursue their passions in the face of uncertainty and obstacles. "A ship is safest in the harbour, but thats not what ships are built for."

We are always asking ourselves whether we are compromising the vision God has given us for the safe harbour. We are asking God if we need to sell out to invest more of ourselves into the things that he has called us to. What has the Voice spoken to you about in regards to your place "in the wall" you are working on?