Blake Snow

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5 things I learned watching 180° South

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures

I recently watched 180 Degrees South. It’s an enjoyable documentary by surfer, climber, and conservationist Chris Malloy, in which he follows the adventurous footsteps of his two mentors—Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and North Face founder Doug Tompkins.

This is what I took from the film: 

  1. Adventure starts when everything goes wrong. That’s a pretty good, if not, overly romantic definition given by the movie. I think it’s fitting, but so is anything that involves risk or the likelihood of unexpected outcomes, however moderate those may be.
  2. Assholes call other people assholes. In the film, Yvon Chouinard comes off as an asshole that doesn’t believe in compromise. I like him, but I’m also grateful for diplomatic people like my father. At one point, Chouinard says this of people who hire guides to climb Mount Everest: “You’re an asshole when you start and an asshole when you get back.” While I have no desire to hike or hire someone to help me hike Everest, I’m sure there’s a lot of good people who have done just that. The world ain’t as black and white as Chouinard or Trump would have you believe.
  3. Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) is a cautionary tale. The island did itself in after obsessing over resource-intensive and giant vanity statues. This is an excellent point that Malloy later tramples on when comparing Easter Island statues to America’s modern power lines. Because, ya know, we don’t erect power lines purely for vanity. Much of it yes. But much of it no. So this is a stretch at best.
  4. Our consumerist society is problematic. Native Americans knew this before the birth of mass advertising in the early 1900s, a successful mechanism for encouraging people to buy things they probably don’t need. In other words, targeted advertising is fine and helpful. But mass advertising seems suspect at best.
  5. Work hard, live simply, respect nature. This is wonderful advice, albeit incredibly subjective.

Four stars out of five.