In a widely circulated New Yorker magazine profile, Patagonia co-founder Yvon Chouinard fumed this summer about Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic Party convention — complaining that including just one sentence about climate change fell far short of the mark.
Apparently, we haven’t heard Patagonia’s last words on the matter of politics and climate change.
On Sept. 29, Patagonia’s Hans Cole and a group of 24 other like-minded environmentally conscious apparel company officials wrote a letter encouraging President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Sally Jewel to continue policies that create smart growth plans for renewable energy on the nation’s public lands.
The rules also reduce methane pollution from oil-and-gas exploration, protect trails and remote areas and clean up streams polluted by mining waste leaks.
Chouinard has been a curious player in the public policy arena. His personal effort to stop the proposed California State University campus on a Ventura hillside did a lot to preserve the city’s greenspace but it also set back higher education in the region for a generation.
He admitted that as a capitalist and successful apparel company owner, he’s been deeply conflicted about the environmental impact of producing the products he sells. That, in turn, has turned Patagonia into a brand that’s trusted to do the right thing for the planet by its loyal cadre of customers.
In embracing the Obama administration’s latest rules, the 25 active outdoor apparel makers, including leaders from Burton, Osprey and SkullCandy, are making a statement about their industry and the future.
It’s not an insignificant industry and it is one where America is the dominant player and likely will be for the next generation or more.
At a time when nationalism and socialism are very much in the air, it is also a statement that markets are the best vehicle for helping consumers make choices about the future — and the future of the planet. It is also a statement that says the profit motive and responsible corporate behavior can co-exist at a time when many large corporations are being vilified for bad behavior.
Patagonia is not the biggest apparel company around but it is a market leader whose techniques and brand building are followed closely by giants like Walmart and Target.
The fact that 25 apparel companies are now speaking out about climate change is going to influence that debate.
Offering solutions to housing shortage
The Economic Vitality Corp. of San Luis Obispo County has weighed in on the debate about workforce housing for the future of the region.
Its recommendations to the board of supervisors should be a blueprint for county and municipal governments from Paso Robles to Simi Valley.
The recommendations range from speedier approvals for conforming uses to the permitting of larger projects to making sure that new housing projects and infrastructure improvements work hand in hand to ensure adequate transportation, water, broadband and other necessities.
The region confronts many problems in trying to permit more housing — it is hard for small built-out cities to accept lots of new residents, easy to use the process to stall and stop progress and it is easy to do nothing and see our next generation move away rather than move in next door.
The EVC proposals could break some of these logjams. Community and business leaders in the rest of the region should take note.