6 May 2023
Writing: George Clark (Year 12)
Editing: Nathan John (Year 12)
Released on April 14, Wild Life is a documentary film about the life and work of Kristine Tompkins and her late husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded the charity Tompkins Conservation together. The work of these two is largely unknown to most people but is historic in its impact on conservation as well as being record-breaking in almost every sense.
For three decades, Douglas and Kristine Tompkins alongside the Tompkins Conservation team have been protecting and rewilding nature in urgent response to global biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. Their work is heavily integrated into the governments of Chile and Argentina as they're focused on a region in South America known as Patagonia National Park — an area more than twice the size of Italy. The newly released film tells the story of Kristine Tompkins and how her journey has developed from becoming the Patagonia CEO to selling her profits from the company and contributing towards protecting and rebuilding areas of outstanding natural beauty and diversity in Patagonia National Park. As of today, the organisation has driven the creation or expansion of 15 national parks, including two marine national parks, protecting 14.8 million acres of land and 30 million acres of the ocean in Argentina and Chile in collaboration with public and private partners. Furthermore, they are leading the most ambitious rewilding initiative in the Americas actively restoring habitats and reintroducing over two dozen species.
However, it is the story of their journey that is most striking. Her husband, entrepreneur Douglas Tompkins, who died in 2015, founded the North Face in San Francisco in 1966. He went on to found another iconic San Francisco-based fashion brand, Esprit, before cashing out to devote himself to land philanthropy. Douglas’ lifelong friend and climbing partner, Yvon Chouinard (Kristine’s neighbour growing up in Southern California), founded Patagonia, creating two of the world’s most successful and enduring outdoor brands with Douglas.
The new documentary film, Wild Life, tells Kristine and Douglas’ love story, recounting how the two met in midlife; leaving their lucrative corporate careers behind and moving to Chile to dedicate their lives to eco-philanthropy. It’s also a business story about unconventional entrepreneurs and an environmental conservation story that serves to inspire all generations of aspiring entrepreneurs and wildlife enthusiasts.
Ultimately, Kristine Tompkins' story grows increasingly relevant in today’s rapidly developing world — a world where the effects of climate change are becoming graver by the year, with big corporations doing next to nothing to combat it. We need more people like-minded to Kristine Tompkins to serve as inspirations and role models to the next generation in order to impact real, positive change in environmental conservation and the mitigation of climate change.