The man whom Rolling Stone magazine once called “the real Indiana Jones” has had a lot of adventures in his life, but he sees none as critical to the planet as the endeavor in which he is currently engaged.
As a mountaineer and world traveler, Rick Ridgeway was a member of the first American team to summit the world’s second highest mountain, Pakistan’s 28,251-foot K2, in 1978. An acclaimed author, photographer and television producer, he has also spent most of the last four decades employed by Patagonia, the outdoor clothing and gear manufacturer founded in Ventura County, Calif., in 1972.
Now 61, Ridgeway remains an active traveler. His most recent book, published by National Geographic in 2005, traced his journey through the Big Open: On Foot Across Tibet’s Chang Tang. But he has turned much of his attention in recent years to environmental issues — in particular, the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
A keynote speaker last week at the International Ecotourism Society conference in Portland, Ridgeway introduced his “Freedom to Roam” initiative, which aims at creating and preserving natural corridors through which wildlife can migrate when faced with the dual challenges of human encroachment and climate change.
“Animals migrate with the seasons,” he said. “They migrate for food, for security, to mate and raise their young. But what happens when their ability to roam is blocked? What are the consequences? Few species are as highly adaptable as deer or rabbits.
“Early man evolved as hunters and gatherers, following the herds,” Ridgeway continued. “North Americans needed wildlife for food and survival not more than a century ago. Today, however, wildlife needs humanity’s help to survive the next 100 years, a century witnessing unprecedented habitat fragmentation and habitat shifts.”
To this end, Ridgeway said, Patagonia has organized a broad coalition of government, industry, environmental organizations and others to raise awareness and commitment about wildlife-corridor conservation. In the High Desert country, he said, the wide-roaming pronghorn antelope is at particular risk.
I have signed on with Ridgeway as a “Witness to Wildlife,” a member of a volunteer citizen naturalist community that helps to monitor activity in various wildlife corridors. If you’re interested in doing the same, you can read more at http://freedomtoroam.org, then link directly to this citizen program.
“At Patagonia,” Ridgeway said, “our #1 contribution to sustainability is making products that last for years and years, and that you can wear for many different things. Our mission is making products with no unnecessary harm to the environment. We are constantly improving and reducing our footprint in the supply chain.
“We use our success to give back to the environmental movement.”