Nature Lover’s Schizophrenia



My yard last week: the dirty glacier only beginning to retreat…

Fortune has a delightfully unhinged profile of Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard by Susan Casey in its new "green business" issue.

The great exemplar of environmental capitalism, Chouinard is wildly enthusiastic about Wal-Mart’s new environmentalism.  "I’m blown away by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart does one-tenth of what they say they’re going to do, it will be incredible."

The piece goes on…

As Chouinard sees it, there’s only one downside to this good news: It’s probably too late. "There’s a race between running out of water, topsoil or petroleum. I don’t know what’s going to be first. Or maybe it will all happen at once."

Locusts, high water, whatever; you can bet that Chouinard will be out there, on a Patagonia surfboard. "I’m a very happy person," he says. "I never get depressed, even though I know that everything’s going to hell."

Clearly, he’s nutty.  And I’m right there with him, careening from one emotional extreme to the other.  It it possible to love the natural world and not be a nut any more?

On the one hand there is the endless bad news: running out of water, oil, and topsoil.  (My God, triple yikes on that one!)  And yet, how can you be a big surfer or a big gardener and not be optimistic?

My garden has been covered with dirty snow and ice for months.  Yet, just one warm day last week, the first warm day, the snow retreated a bit, and dozens of bulbs and perennials suddenly appeared.  Just a little sun, just a little warmth, and life is ready to explode out of the ground.  Is it really possible that such an unstoppable force could be derailed by human sloppiness?

Of course, sure, especially temporarily.  But it’s hard to believe it in spring.


…yet the flora are ready to rush in.


  1. Between the resiliance of nature and my belief in the basic good nature and ingenuity of most people, I’m hopeful. Not that there’s not a lot of work to do. But as gardeners, a lot of work to do shouldn’t scare us. Roll up your sleeves.

  2. You don’t want to hear me rant about water, oil and topsoil. It’s much less depressing to focus on all the seeds germinating in the garden. I’ve got a whole produce section coming out of the ground here in the middle of the District of Columbia!

    At least we’ll be set for salad when the end comes…

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