Roy Exum: My Patagonia Sorrow

Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There is a 9-in-10 chance that if you were to see me on any given day, I will be wearing a piece of Patagonia clothing. I have had a 50-year love affair with the outdoorsy outfitter and my year-round wardrobe overflows with the brand. The company’s founder, Yvon Chouinard, is easily one of my most fabled folk heroes. For the record, as I write this, I am wearing a Patagonia sweatshirt and pair of their fabled “Baggies” shorts. There is no greater loyalist to the Patagonia brand than I am.

Tuesday afternoon, it was revealed the same Patagonia – “my Patagonia” – has joined those in life’s dark shallows who have oh so sadly kicked their principles, their decency, and their character to the wayside.

Patagonia is now “a hate company,” something I never dreamed would happen.

Worse, my faceless friends at what I lovingly call “Good ‘Gonia” have actually embroidered a vulgar “hate word” in some of their new top-of-the-line “Stand-Up” climbing shorts now for sale at Patagonia.com. Flip up the fabric tag inside the shorts and the slogan is easily read: "Vote the a**holes out." (The asterisks are mine – Patagonia uses a pair of s’s instead.)

Please understand, I am hardly a prude and, what’s more, I admittedly (and regrettably) have said the word in private conversation but to put such open prejudice on a pair of shorts that sell to America’s public for $79 is over the line. It flies in the face of every decent American’s climbs, ambitions, and hopes. Do you dare think I would ever send a pair of shorts such as these to one of my granddaughters for Christmas, much less allow such pointed filth in my house to include in my immense Patagonia collection?

I love everything about the new shorts: “Our Original Stand Up Shorts made with 9.5-oz Regenerative Organic Certification Pilot Cotton from farms working toward our highest standard, which aims to rehabilitate soil, respect animal welfare, and improve the lives of farmers. Limited edition. Fair Trade Certified™ sewn.” (I don’t like the fact they are made in some pennies-on-the dollar factory in Sri Lanka, and I am grateful they come in an ugly combination of colors so I won’t be tempted to buy a pair and scissor the offensive tag away. This I really believe: The best ‘Good ‘Gonia’ is made in the United States of America.)

Otherwise I love everything about my clothing company. I adore that my Patagonia fleece tops are made from recycled plastic bottles, that my goose-down winter coats are guaranteed not to be harmful to birds, and that every purchase I make from the company based in Ventura, Calif., contributes to the environment.

Patagonia does far too much for the common good of America for me to take a “holier than thou” stance after almost 50 years. I ain’t about to bag up my Patagonia “things” and call for a dump truck to Goodwill. But what kills me is this: What was some sandals-wearing moron thinking when he/she had such a brain spasm to think that by using a filthy, hate-loaded word it would better serve the company’s efforts on global warming, feeding the destitute in the Andes, ridding our oceans of huge plastic islands, and making me feel better about the Patagonia insignia on my favorite fall jackets?

Believe me, there is no way to defend it. In a word were people as suddenly faced with one simple question: “Is this right or wrong?” there is no way a spokesman from Patagonia can stand before a class of eighth-graders anywhere in the nation and convince those children that a cornerstone word of “hate” has a place in any meaningful dialog about change.

America’s newly found lust for hate must stop. How saddening it is to suddenly learn Patagonia – long a champion of so much that is right and good and wholesome and “the best” - has just lowered itself to the level of ‘the common’ among and unwittingly joined the ‘a-holes’ that they most detest. The public will soon forget the slur -- which was aimed at the elected deniers of our ever-increasing climate concerns -- but the same public will never forget the brazen word that has now grievously sullied Patagonia’s quest for excellence.

In the very simple world of right vs. wrong – Patagonia’s hatred is wrong.

* * *

Yvon Chouinard, now 81 years old, is an American rock climber, environmentalist, and outdoor industry billionaire businessman. His company, Patagonia, is known for its environmental focus. Chouinard is also a surfer, kayaker, and falconer and is particularly fond of tenkara fly-fishing. He has written about climbing issues and ethics and on mixing environmentalism and business (per Wikipedia)

Here is a recent letter Chouinard penned:

* * *

DEAR ‘1% FOR THE PLANET COMMUNITY: ‘THE OPPOSITE OF DOING NOTHING’

I’ve never celebrated Earth Day. I’ve always felt that all of that attention on just one day distracts us from the need to be taking action for the planet every day.

But these are extraordinary times. This pandemic is showing us clearly that if we put off what needs to be done, it ends up coming back to bite us. We’ve known for a long time that there would be a global pandemic, and we’ve done nothing. We’ve known for decades about global warming, and we’ve done nothing. We’ve got to choose to act.

As members and nonprofit partners of 1% for the Planet, you have made that choice. And during this challenging time, it’s not an easy one. But it’s the right one. When Patagonia has faced hard times before, as we are now, the absolute last thing that we would give up is our 1%. It’s a cost of doing business on this planet. It’s not philanthropy—it’s an absolute necessity for us living on this planet. It’s the opposite of doing nothing.

It’s also so important that we stay in this together. One lesson that I’ve learned, and that this pandemic is certainly teaching us, is that we’re not in isolation. The problems we’re facing now have to be solved on a global basis and can only be solved by people working together and staying tough together—like all of you in the 1% for the Planet community. 

So, hang in there, stay the course, and remember that this community matters during these extraordinary times and at all times.

My thanks to all of you for your commitment. It means a lot.

—Yvon

Founder of Patagonia & 1% for the Planet

P.S. Remember, vote the (a**holes) out —all of those politicians who don't believe we should do anything about climate change. Vote for the planet and against those who would do nothing. We have the power and now is the time to use it.

* * *

To learn more about ‘1% For the Planet,’ please go to www.1%fortheplanet.org

royexum@aol.com


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