My kind of environmentalist: Douglas Tompkins, the American founder of North Face and Esprit clothing is "trying to save the planet by buying bits of it." He has already bought "a huge swath of southern Chile, and now he's hoping to save the northeast wetlands of neighboring Argentina":
"The land conservation budget was burning a hole in our pocket," Tompkins said.
He bought a 120,000-acre ranch in 1998 and has increased his Argentine holdings to nearly 600,000 acres since then. He now owns well over 1 million acres in Chile and Argentina, a combined area about the size of Rhode Island….
Tompkins' Conservation Land Trust recently released its first anteater into the wild and wants to reintroduce otters and even jaguars….
Tompkins insists he'll eventually return the land to both governments to be preserved as nature reserves or parks, but will hold onto it for now "as a very good example of what private conservation can do."
Naturally, everyone has complaints. American imperialism, water access, trespass on ancestral lands, etc. But Tompkins's project is a great retort to people who say that the market doesn't address environmental concerns. It's true that things get more complicated when it comes to pollution and global warming. But just letting people buy land on an open market is ideally suited to efficient conservation efforts, despite the conspicuous lack of support from conventional environmental organizations. Of course, an open market isn't always available. Despite previous courting of Tompkins by the Argentine government,
This month lawmakers in Corrientes province, where the wetlands are located, modified the local constitution to block foreigners from buying land considered a strategic resource. The law appeared to target any new attempts by Tompkins to increase his holdings.