The apparel and gear company Patagonia has become quite the status symbol. Bright colors and unique designs combined with the mantras of quality and responsibility have made the brand the perfect sweater that college students can wear while sipping their Starbucks and wearing their Birkenstocks on a fall day across the southern United States.
What no one seems to know though, is that the flashy brand that touts itself as an outdoor gear company actually publicly and vehemently stands against many of the things their consumers in the South would say they find important.
For example, Patagonia is anti-life. In the book, “Let My People Go Surfing,” Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, writes that:
“We’ve had a few employees who didn’t approve of the company’s political beliefs and were greatly offended by our giving grants to family planning organizations. My answer is that they shouldn’t be working for any company that they don’t believe in, whether its because of the product… or what the company does with its profits…The answer, I tell them (as well as the answers to nearly all the questions the company faces), can be found in the philosophies… Focus on the causes, the philosophy tells us, not the symptoms.
Our support of Planned Parenthood is an example. While the organization appears to be working strictly on social problems, Planned Parenthood actually works at the single greatest cause of our environmental problems: overpopulation. The countries with the greatest human misery are the ones with the highest birthrates. They are also the poorest countries. They are poor because the natural environment has been destroyed…” (1)
Did you catch it? The phrase “anti-life” was written on purpose. Planned Parenthood is supported by Patagonia not because of some politically correct “right to choose”, but because Patagonia believes, and teaches as its philosophies, it is humans themselves that are the problem with this world, and that limiting this problem should be supported.
In Chouinard’s own words, the humans are the cause of the degradation of the world, and stopping human reproduction would be the stopping the root cause of the issues.
And what is this book anyway? “Let My People Go Surfing” is intended, according to its preface (and again, written by Chouinard), to “…be a philosophical manual for the employees of Patagonia.”(2) This book is not the random collections of someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing – it is the calculated text of someone intending to pass on the mission and vision of its founder.
What is most surprising about finding this in Patagonia’s book is not that it existed – Patagonia has for a very long time been an open advocate for preservation of the land and has advocated for often extremist environmental principles.
What was most surprising was that no one in Christian circles seems to know about this.
Every time I ask someone who runs in my evangelical circles why they like Patagonia, the reply is almost verbatim: “quality”. Maybe “style” if they are feeling extra honest.
But when the follow up question is, “Do you know that they are extremely liberal in the causes they support, which includes being pro-choice?” I get nothing but blank stares and awkward laughs.
Patagonia is making a fool out of Christians because we have bought into the status symbol of buzz-words that we like to associate ourselves with without actually checking the foundations.
Not only on the life issue but on many others, Patagonia is the staunch opposite of Christian evangelical values. It is time that Christians woke up to that and stopped convincing themselves that Patagonia’s over-priced products mean they're high quality, when the truth is the profits are being used to take public stances and affect policy on issues that are opposite of Christian’s values.
1. Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing: the Education of a Reluctant Businessman: Including 10 More Years of Business as Usual. Penguin Books, 2016. (page 211)
2. Chouinard, Yvon. Let My People Go Surfing: the Education of a Reluctant Businessman: Including 10 More Years of Business as Usual. Penguin Books, 2016. (page xii)