Remembering Doug Tompkins

December 9, 2015

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

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From Richard Heinberg and entire staff & board of Post Carbon Institute

We at Post Carbon Institute heard today with profound sadness of the sudden passing of Doug Tompkins—one of the world’s foremost conservationists and a great friend and supporter of our work and that of many other environmental organizations. Doug, who was 72, died following a kayaking accident in Patagonia. He had co-founded The North Face clothing company in 1964 and Esprit a few years later and was a skilled climber, kayaker, photographer, and bush pilot. He was renowned equally for being a pioneering outdoorsman, a highly successful businessman, and a fearless conservationist.

A couple of years ago Doug came to us with the proposal to collaborate on a big coffee-table book on energy; it was published as ENERGY: OVERDEVELOPMENT AND THE DELUSION OF ENDLESS GROWTH. He had worked with other environmental organizations to produce similar books on confined animal feeding operations, industrial agriculture, overpopulation, and mountaintop removal coal mining, among other topics.

Doug felt fiercely protective of Earth’s vulnerable ecosystems, and used his fortune to purchase large, pristine tracts of land in South America as permanent nature preserves, which he then donated to Chile and Argentina.

When discussions turned toward humanity’s ecological dilemma (which they inevitably did when he was present), Doug didn’t mince his words or seek security in politically palatable nostrums: in his view, there were simply too many of us, using too much, too fast.

Doug lived out his philosophy and dedicated his time and resources to making sure future generations have access to a natural world as abundant and majestic as the one he grew to love as a young backpacker in the early 1960s. His passing leaves a void within the environmental movement that no one can fill. His was a clear and uncompromisingly honest voice and we will miss him greatly.

Our thoughts are with his family and also with our friends at the Doug’s own environmental organization, the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Perhaps the best way of all to remember Doug would be simply to get out into Nature at the first opportunity: experience it, love it, protect it.


Ed. note: You can find the Tompkins Conservation website’s press release about Doug’s passing here.

Richard Heinberg

Richard is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books, including some of the seminal works on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. He has authored hundreds of essays and articles that have appeared in such journals as Nature and The Wall Street Journal; delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues to audiences on six continents; and has been quoted and interviewed countless times for print, television, and radio. His monthly MuseLetter has been in publication since 1992. Full bio at

Tags: conservation, Doug Tompkins, the natural world