On April 18th, Kris Tompkins gave a slideshow and talk at Harvard University about the creation of Patagonia National Park. The event, co-sponsored by the Harvard Mountaineering Club, the Environmental Action Committee, and the Women’s Leadership Project, drew an enthusiastic crowd of 120 people. Although undergraduates made up the majority of the audience, the event attracted adventurers and environmentalists from almost every school and graduate program.
After a lively introduction from the event’s undergraduate organizers, Kris narrated her trajectory from the business world, as CEO of Patagonia, Inc, to conservation and environmental activism. She explained how the different elements of her environmental work—park creation, ecosystem restoration, activism, and sustainable farming—fit together to work towards the preservation of biodiversity, the creation of meaningful work, and the development of alternative economic models.
Then she dove into the creation of Patagonia National Park: why build a park there, how a non-profit can actually create a park, and what audience members can do to get involved. Large slides of the park’s landscapes, wildlife and people reinforced her points and gave the crowd a taste of Patagonia’s spectacular beauty. After she concluded, Katie McCann, Conservacion Patagonica’s Vice President, joined her for a spirited and thought-provoking question-and-answer session. Many students lingered after the presentation concluded, eager for a chance to meet Kris and Katie and discuss opportunities to get involved.
The idea to bring Conservacion Patagonica to Harvard began in January, when the Mountaineering Club President and Librarian, Peter McCarthy and Tucker Pforzheimer, visited the park to climb, explore, and learn about what “making a new national park” actually means. When they met Kris, her story of connecting a passion for outdoor adventure with saving wild places resonated with them. Along with Eliza Lehner, who spent several weeks at the future park in 2010, they invited Kris to speak about her work to create Patagonia National Park on her next trip to the U.S..
Drawing a larger-than-expected crowd, the presentation succeeded in engaging audience members of all ages in Conservacion Patagonica specifically—dozens of people expressed interest in lending a hand volunteering or interning with us—and in wilderness conservation in general. Recent Harvard graduate Jo Henderson-Frost, a alumna of both the Mountaineering Club and the Environmental Action Committee, noted: “Kris did an excellent job highlighting the elements of the Patagonia National Park project that would interest and inspire each member of the diverse crowd. She left us with a powerful message: no matter who you are, if you have a vision of something you want to create, you can jump in and get started.”
Peter McCarthy praised Kris’s ability to captivate her audience, noting that “few of us had much of an idea of what goes into creating a national park, so Kris’s discussion of acquiring land, restoring ecosystems, and working with local people and the government left us with plenty to think about. The Harvard Mountaineering Club feels proud to have hosted Kris and Katie; their presentation motivated us to go climbing in unexplored places and investigate how we can get involved in conservation in the process.”
The enthusiasm generated at the event left us at Conservacion Patagonica eager to continue making presentations to new audiences. Hearing their questions and insights stimulates our discussions about this project, while increasing the number of people aware of our work enables us to create a larger impact. Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a college student or involved with an organization or interest group that might be interested in hearing a similar presentation on the future park!