Mile for Mile - for conservation

Photo: James Q Martin

As the world’s population grows at an astounding rate, so too does the pressure to protect our wild places for future generations. Case in point, the rugged plains and mountains of Patagonia, Chile, a region threatened by a sharply increasing demand for hydro electric power plants, factories, and commercial use property.

Mile for Mile is a production by outdoor innovators Patagonia Inc. and, through the eyes of accomplished ultra runners and brand ambassadors Krissy Moehl, Luke Nelson and Jeff Browning, aims to raise awareness about the recently commissioned Patagonia Park and the ongoing efforts of to Conservacion Patagonica, an organization responsible for establishing innovative conservation policies in the Aysén region of Chile founded by the late Doug Tompkins.

"In Mile for Mile Krissy Moehl, Luke Nelson, and Jeff Browning run 106 miles through the newly opened Patagonia Park in Chile to celebrate and highlight Conservacion Patagonica's efforts to re-wild and protect this vast landscape," comments Alison Kelman, Communications Director for Conservacion Patagonica. "Now complete, the park  protects over 640,000 acres of grasslands, glaciated peaks, and llenga forest in a region that is constantly threatened by damming, mining, and logging companies."

Mile For Mile 2

Photo: James Q Martin

In addition to the protection of this area, Conservacion Patagonica set out to construct over 50 miles of new trail, providing easy community access to this pristine natural environment; Patagonia Inc. committed to matching the donations received from the public dollar for dollar*.

Intrigued by the message that the film delivers, along with wanting to understand more about how the film was produced, we caught up with the man tasked with telling this story, Flagstaff-based photographer and film maker James Q Martin. When we finally talked, "Q", as Martin is widely known within the outdoor adventure sports community, could be heard packing for a trip to the Grand Canyon, the sounds of duffel bag zips being opened and piles of clanging climbing gear being meticulously packed emanating in the background.

Mile For Mile 3

Photo: James Q Martin

Q has photographed adventure sports endeavors and wild places for over 25 years. And in doing so, he has been behind the lens of some for the most provocative climbing and environmental photos known to the community. It was only fitting that he began our interview by explaining how his deep love for the region in question originated after a trip to Patagonia in 2000. He went on by explaining that it wasn’t until 2009, however, that he felt compelled to make a difference. This change of heart happened when reading an article written by Kris Tompkins, co-founder of Conservacion Patagoninca and wife of renowned environmental activist Douglas Tompkins, about the potential destruction of the Baker and Pascua River systems due to the construction of hydroelectric dams. There and then an almost instinctive decision was made, a pledge to using his photography skills to become an advocate for all things environmental that affect this region of South America.

Fast forward to 2013, Q was approached by Moehl and Nelson at an annual trade show with the idea to tap into the ultra running community to support conservation efforts in Patagonia. The original film project was to be called “Ice to Ocean” supporting the Patagonia Sin Represas (Patagonia Without Dams) movement mounted by the local community to curb the construction of dams. However, after a change in government policy in early 2014, many of the dam projects were canceled, leaving no real reason for Patagonia Inc. to back this kind of awareness project. And so the new project was born maintaining the emphasis of using running and Patagonia's athletes as the tool to bringing awareness to the efforts of Conservacion Patagonica and their new park.

Mile For Mile 4

Photo: James Q Martin

"I'd never worked with any of them before," Q continues when asked if he had previously worked with either Moehl, Nelson or Browning. "They're extremely humbling, and probably the most gracious people that I have ever worked with in 20 years of working with adventure athletes. They came into it without a sense of selfishness but a real awareness. Luke connected more to the landscape through the extreme weather and conditions. Jeff was like the comedian, lighthearted and easy going. Krissy was the quite sufferer, she just put her head down and went."

We mused that following three world class athletes through a remote part of Patagonia could not have been an easy task. The conversation swiftly shifted from the pleasantries of working with the runners to some of the challenges behind the filming of Mile for Mile.

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Photo: James Q Martin

"General logistics was our biggest challenge," Q explained. "Moving a 10-person crew around, being able to keep up with the athletes, making sure there was a balance between the filming preparation and allowing [the athletes] to do what they needed to do in order to prepare. Schedules were thrown out the door, we had to become reactionary and sensitive to the on-goings of the park. And, to add to the challenge, we had to scurry to process the day's shoot before the power was cut to the park at midnight. On the plus side, it meant we could at least get some sleep."

As our call with Q came to an end, we were left thinking that it's one thing to be inspired by the stories of those who create thought provoking work, it's another thing, and even more notable, to learn about the ongoing efforts of others whose sole purpose in life is to encourage people to think laterally and find ways to make a difference to the world around us. 

An excerpt taken from one of Martin's comments in Mile for Mile: Interview with Director James 'Q' Martin, when asked about what he hopes the film will achieve, reads:

"What I hope this film does is to inspire people to protect things in their own back yard and act on a local level, protecting the places they love."

To find out more and support the Mile for Mile campaign, visit www.patagonia.com.

*Patagonia Inc. committed to matching community donations up to $42,500.00 and at the beginning of 2016 they passed that mark raising more then they set out to.

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Photo: James Q Martin

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The Ledlenser Trails In Motion Film Festival is an annual international film tour that brings a collection of the finest trail and ultra running films to passionate audiences around the world. Join like-minded trail runners and adventure sports enthusiasts at film festival-styled events in almost 30 countries as they come together to celebrate the culture and the community of the sport, all hosted by people who love to share this "dirty art" with their local running communities.

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