In January 2013, I set out with my Maps for Good colleague Marty Schnure to create the first print and interactive map for the Patagonia National Park project. I was about to turn 23 and had just spent the better part of a year working with Marty to fundraise and plan the cartographic expedition to the park. The idea for the project started as whispers between cubicle walls at our old jobs and later became a reality when Kris and Doug Tompkins, who died last week, communicated their need for high-quality, beautiful maps that could match the beauty of the park they were working so hard to create.
I look back on this experience as a turning point for how I think about 21st century conservation. Kris and Doug instilled in me that we cannot sit idly by and take conservation for granted; we must get to work protecting the places we love with the time that we have. Their work in Patagonia made me understand that often we only save the places we love and we only love the places we know. Now, I hope that through my work people might come to know and connect with a place so that we may have a better chance in protecting it.
Doug fiercely enjoyed wild places but knew that loving a place wasn’t enough; you must dedicate yourself to protecting it. As part of the next generation of environmentalists, we must carry on the work of past environmental leaders and find ways to collectively commit ourselves to protect the places we love.
Most of my days are not spent hiking in beautiful remote areas; they’re spent behind a computer, most recently, in a cold office that doesn’t get above 55 degrees. I feel privileged to be able to explore the outdoors as part of my work, but it is an even greater privilege to work with the passionate individuals that are working hard each day to protect critical landscapes. That’s really what keeps me doing this work.