Let My People Go Surfing

By Yvon Chouinard

Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing is a wake-up call to be better steward's of the earth's resources -- and how to do it. This is not a tree-huger manifesto, but the story of how one man and one company have made a profound difference on the ecological front. 

Chouinard is both evolutionist and activist, a life-long naturalist and the highly effective founder and owner of Patagonia, designers and sellers "of outdoor clothing and gear for the silent sports: climbing, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, fly fishing, and trail running." 

While I differ with his worldview I admire his overview of the perilous state of our planet. He is convincing! Chouinard and the folks who work with him are knowledgeable and they put their money where their mouth is, investing significant resources (money and people) to address environmental challenges.

Their company mission statement is: "We're in business to save our home planet." How many companies do you know who devote a percentage of sales (not profits) as a self-imposed environmental tax. They explain their driving force on their website: 

At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations—to do something about it. 

Read this book or examine their Patagonia website

Some of my takeaways:

1. Any worthwhile effort is the result of persistence through difficulties. You may not agree with everything he says (I sure don't), but for a company that started out selling a better piton, which morphed into a world-wide brand, his story is impressive. Patagonia didn't know anything about clothing or food, but are niche industry leaders in both areas. Their knowledge extends far beyond just being "organic." 

2. How they promote who they are to other people. Patagonia is about substance, not flash. They are not trying to "wow" a following, but serve a sector that needs what they offer.

3. The why and how behind recycling. We've been recycling for years, but Yvon Chouinard explains the necessity and the how-to in a way that makes me want to initiate changes in both my lifestyle and through our church.

4. How to find an effective CEO (and I'll add) "and leaders in general." They are hand's on people. When there is a problem of any kind these people these people have the confidence to think it through and solve it themselves instead of looking for a repairman or consultant. The longevity of a CEO's career is directly proportional to his or her problem-solving skills and to adapt and grow with the job." Excellent insight! 

5. Kaizen. Chouinard never uses the Japanese word for "continuous improvement," but he and his company certainly exemplify it. The Patagonia story challenges me to constantly do what I can (and then some) to be "best in class." Their efforts and determination are exemplary.

I couldn't help but be wowed by Chouinard's awareness of and command of the environmental argument for a better/greener planet. That said, I wish he had backed up his reports, "facts", etc with links to the research behind them. That was disappointing. Additionally, evolutionist are not allowed to use the word, "miracle" (which he does). His worldview doesn't allow for miracles :).