The incredible true story of the entrepreneur turned conservationist—the founder of the iconic companies The North Face and Esprit who used his fortune to protect over 12-million acres of land from development and exploitation and battle to save the wild. Expelled from high school in 1959, Douglas Tompkins sought his freedom in San Francisco, where he opened a ski and outdoor equipment shop he called The North Face and Esprit clothing company. Over the next twenty-five years, Tompkins built these modest shops into 2 of the world’s most beloved brands. Esprit became the envy of retail, upending the way fashion apparel is produced, marketed, and sold. Breaking from traditional corporate leadership, Tompkins practiced what he called, “management by absence,” calling into the office four to six months a year from Tibet, the Swiss Alps, Siberia, and other remote locations where he could kayak, ski, trek across a glacier, or climb mountains. Successfully summiting the peaks of capitalism, Tompkins realized he had climbed the wrong mountain. Determined to make a change, he sold his company and flew 6,400 miles south to Patagonia to live amid the wild beauty in a shack he dubbed “The Hobbit House.” From there Tompkins launched an unprecedented conservation campaign to create a National Parks system—a 12-million-acre swath of protected land stretching from Patagonia to Tierra del Fuego—and prevent the destruction of South American ecosystems. But the battle wasn’t easy. Opposed by anti-environmental forces, including the Chilean military and Catholic Church, Tompkins waged a multi-million-dollar Monkey Wrench-style guerrilla campaign targeting national and international companies devastating the environment for profit. Though Tompkins died in a kayaking accident in 2015, his legacy endures. In addition to his conservation victories, Tompkins also inspired a new generation of environmentalists and conservationists who continue the fight. A tale of determination, innovation, and triumph, illustrated with black-and-white photographs throughout, A Wild Idea is a celebration of a complicated and often contradictory man, a stern taskmaster who obsessed over detail yet often ignored his children; a multi-millionaire who preferred to sleep on a couch; an environmentalist who drove a red Ferrari; and a visionary who pursued his dreams, abandoned them, then chased new ones, becoming among most notable conservationists of his time.
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About the Author
Jonathan Franklin is an investigative journalist who has reported for the New York Times, Boston Globe, and The Guardian. A native of Massachusetts, he resides in Santiago, Chile, with his wife and seven daughters, but often lives off the grid when writing his books.