Let My People Go Surfing Second Edition – Book Review

“To do good, you actually have to do something.” —Yvon Chouinard

Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman melds adventure, business, and environmental stories into a book for everyone.

Reading this book will give you hope for the future of the planet by demonstrating that a business can be profitable, treat its employees well, and care for the environment.

Let My People Go Surfing 2016 Edition Book CoverThe book’s colorful author Yvon Chouinard is a self-professed dirtbag who began his business career blacksmithing climbing pitons in a tin shed in Southern California.

This tiny business led to Chouinard founding outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia in 1973. Over 40 years later, the company is going strong with customers all over the world.

I read and wrote about the first edition of Let My People Go Surfing several years ago. When I discovered that the second edition covers ten more years of what Chouinard calls “business unusual,” I immediately knew I wanted to read it and I am glad I did.

Book Review

Let My People Go Surfing opens with a combination of Chouinard’s autobiography and the history of the two companies he founded Chouinard Equipment and Patagonia. The second half of the book covers Patagonia’s business philosophies and provides a look into the future.

History

The history section will both entertain and inform you. Chouinard openly shares tales from his own life as well as business successes and failures.

As a young rock climber, Chouinard and his friends were constantly practicing, improving, and innovating techniques and gear. They took risks and learned from the outcomes. These are all attributes that Chouinard later carried over to his business enterprises.

“If you want to understand the entrepreneur, study the juvenile delinquent. The delinquent is saying with his actions, ‘This Sucks. I’m going to do my own thing.’” —Yvon Chouinard

Philosophies

As you read part two, you will discover how Patagonia builds customer loyalty, which employee benefit the book drew its name from, and how concern for the environment is woven into the company’s decision-making and operations.

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” —Patagonia Mission Statement

Here are two examples of Patagonia’s business unusual approach.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Chouinard and his fly-fishing friend Craig Mathews started 1% for the Planet, an alliance of businesses who pledge to donate at least 1% of their sales (note the word sales, not profits) to organizations and projects actively working to protect and restore the natural environment.

Product Stewardship

Patagonia makes products to last and takes them back at the end of their useful life to be recycled into new products.

The company helps customers get the most out of their Patagonia merchandise by assisting customers with making repairs or doing it for them.

To encourage customers only to buy what they need, Patagonia placed a full-page ad in the New York Times with the headline “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” The ad came out on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year.

The Bottom Line

Yvon Chouinard’s affinity for rock climbing probably heavily influenced his decision to go into business. First, he needed to make money so he could do more rock climbing. Second, he and his friends had ideas on how to improve and reinvent the equipment they used.

Through his outdoor adventures, Chouinard came face-to-face with the damage occurring in the natural environment. He decided that Patagonia needed to clean up its own environmental act and that the company could and should set an example and inspire other companies to do the same.

Let My People Go Surfing shows that there are ways to conduct business that is good for people, the planet, and the bottom line.

Company CEOs and managers concerned with engaging and retaining their employees and building a resilient organization might learn a thing or two from this book.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the second edition of Let My People Go Surfing and look forward to reading the third edition in another ten years.

Reader Note: my imperfect understanding of the term dirtbag is that it refers to a person who is so enthusiastic about an activity (like rock climbing) that they work only enough to support their activity.

Featured Image at Top: Surfer Dressed as a Businessman Catches a Wave – Photo Credit iStock/stephfournet

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ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth – Book Review

Energy ignorance is not bliss.

If you have ever flipped a light switch, consider reading ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, an energy primer with dramatic photos.

Without energy, our lives would come to a screeching standstill so it seems to me that at a minimum we should have a basic understanding of what energy is, where it comes from, and how producing it affects people and the planet.

I discovered ENERGY during my own quest to learn more about how our society generates power and its impact on us and the environment. This book covers energy in an easy to read and understandable manner.

Book Review

As you turn the pages between the foreword and the introduction in ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, you will get a preview of what you are about to read. Twenty-five photos, each taking up two pages, show energy in a myriad of ways including a uranium prospecting site near the Grand Canyon, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, a wind farm in California, a concentrated solar plant in Spain, and a tar sands extraction site in Alberta, Canada.

The remaining pages of the book will enlighten you about all forms of energy, provide you with a historical framework of how we got to where we are, examine economics and environmental impacts, uncover myths, and give you hope that there is a better way to power our world.

Accompanied by photos illustrating the subject matter, ENERGY is comprised of informational pieces and short essays written by energy experts, conservationists, authors, researchers, scientists, analysts, environmentalists, engineers, philosophers, and activists. The book’s content is organized into seven sections.

  • ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Illusion of Endless Growth Book CoverPart I: A Deeper Look at the Energy Picture
  • Part II: The Predicament
  • Part III: The Landscape of Energy
  • Part IV: False Solutions
  • Part V: Wildness Under Attack
  • Part VI: Depowering Destruction
  • Part VII: What We’re For

The dedication for ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth sums up what is at stake.

“For the wild creatures whose habitat is being destroyed by a rapacious energy economy, and for the children whose breathing is labored due to pollution from fossil fuels. May a future energy economy that mirrors nature’s elegance arrive soon enough to relieve their suffering.”

The Bottom Line

The Foundation for Deep Ecology published ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth in collaboration with the Post Carbon Institute and Watershed Media. These three organizations are involved in educating, promoting, and advocating for a transition to a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable world.

ENERGY editors Tom Butler and George Wuerthner are both authors and activists with the Foundation for Deep Ecology. Their other books include Wildlands Philanthropy, Plundering Appalachia: The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining, Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy and Thrillcraft: The Environmental Consequences of Motorized Recreation.

I believe a wide range of people will find this book informative and I like the fact that you do not need to be a scientist or a technical person to understand the contents.

ENERGY is a large and hefty tome weighing in at 5.8 pounds with 336 pages and 152 color photographs. Due to its size, I found that it was more comfortable to read the book sitting open on my dining room table. A smaller book might be easier to handle, but I think the large photographs make an impact that could not be achieved with less page real estate. The information items and essays are short, which make this an ideal book for people with busy schedules. You can easily read a few pieces at a time and come back to others later. I read ENERGY during my lunch breaks over the course of a month or so.

When I purchased ENERGY: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth, I also bought and read its predecessor Plundering Appalachia: The Tragedy of Mountaintop-Removal Coal Mining. I am donating my copies to the local library so that others can read and share these remarkable books.

Featured Image at Top: BP Deep Water Horizon Oil Drilling Platform on Fire in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010, Photo by unknown photographer

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