Summer OR 2010 – Beyond Gear

Post by blogger | August 3, 2010      

Ah yes, Grasshopper, we have entered the temple and are bowing at the feet of the fleece. Indeed, I’ve seen some cool stuff and shall blog a few choice tidbits for your edification. Soon.

Salizar on the big screen.

Salazar on the big screen for a big crowd. He looked better than my photo. Sorry Ken.

But, after the past months of economic fears, I have to admit I’m a heck of a lot more interested in what makes all this tick; more interested than I am in trying to play textile engineer and figure out what type of unobtanium the latest jackets are made of.

To that end, this morning Lisa and I attended the annual Outdoor Industry Association breakfast event to hear a speech by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Later we met with Black Diamond chief Peter Metcalf for his take on where BD is going now that they’ve transitioned to being publicly traded. (More about our conversation with Peter to be published in a later post.)

Back when everything in America was humming smoothly along, the breakfast speech would have probably been laced with downer references to the demise of the planet and how recycling water bottles would save us.

Instead, the ambitious environmental stance of the Obama administration filtered down through speeches by Nancy Sutley of the Council on Environmental Quality, and (keynote) by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salizar. I don’t write that to be cynical, as I’m a big fan of just about anything that truly helps sustain our natural environment, be it a city park or a wild river. (Full disclosure: For those of you who know we’re not the most PC blog around, perhaps we’re a tiny bit cynical…).

Perhaps amongst certain circles optimism is keynote of crumby economic times. As Salizar pointed out, look back at history and be stunned by how many important environmental actions took place during times of national stress. He ticked off a bunch of examples, one being the founding of Yosemite National Park during the Civil War. Hmmm, that sounded like a bit of reach so I looked it up.

Okay, Yosemite was actually founded in a conventional sense in 1890, but I’ll concede it looks like the park was indeed beginning as a concept in the early 1860s so I’ll give Salazar that (though he might want to have a little conversation with his speech writer.)

What I liked best about Salazar’s take was he didn’t shy away from emphatically emphasizing that the outdoor industry in the U.S. creates a 730 billion dollar flow of money in the economy, along with six and a half million jobs.

To me, conservation has to be tied tied to economics. Sure, we’d like to value the natural world on its own merits, but reality in our capitalist system is that unless money is associated with something, it tends to get neglected. (And of course, that something might get mistreated anyway, especially up through recent history or even at present, witness the BP oil spill).

Another thing I liked about Salazar and Sutley was they erected a big tent in their talk that included just about all outdoor recreation. This in the face of a mostly muscle powered crowd. That’s probably to be expected as politicians can’t risk excluding people, but nice to hear anyway as our whole approach to public land use here at is that there’s plenty to go around and most forms of outdoor recreation are pretty darned legit no mater what the power source.

So what’s exciting about all this is that the outdoor recreation industry, I repeat, outdoor recreation, is big and getting bigger while much other stuff is shrinking. Proof, here at Outdoor Retailer the show is sold out and hotel bookings are up 20 percent.

Thinking it through, consider that Outdoor Retailer is not a boat show, and not an ATV show. That’s some stunning growth in a sector that’s mostly muscle powered.

Read that and weep if you’re an anti growth iconoclast. But what would you rather have, 20% growth in the outdoor recreation industry, or 20% in coal mining to provide electricity to couch surfers?

Next, we meet with Metcalf for his take on Black Diamond. Oh, and we’ll blog soon about a few temple ornaments (otherwise known as gear).


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5 Responses to “Summer OR 2010 – Beyond Gear”

  1. Greg August 3rd, 2010 6:20 pm

    From the Yosemite NP website:
    “In 1864, during the heat of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant that protected Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias as the first territory ever set aside by Congress for public use and preservation (although in its initial years it was a California State Park).”

  2. Lou August 3rd, 2010 9:17 pm

    Thanks Greg, I guess it depends on how you define the beginnings of Yosemite…

  3. Liz August 3rd, 2010 9:31 pm

    Interesting take Lou. My comments:
    -Growth is up in people powered sports overall I think. This is a not-so-hard to imagine- brainer. (Softer way of saying no -brainer). Here’s why:
    – the “green enviro health” movement is composed of (mostly) affluent moderate to high disposable income types who also have self- centered goal- oriented tendencies. In other words, they get to keep their jobs and are self driven to spend money on their ‘pursuit of dreams’ leisure and physical wellness. They won’t let go of this easily even if times are tough.
    -this ‘growth’ though, is not without it’s price…
    Questions I have- where is all (or most) of the gear we use manufactured? How much pollution and social degradation happens as a result? Are we actually growing another country’s economy more than ours?

  4. Aaron August 4th, 2010 12:22 am

    Lou, there was a push for the Fly Fishing industry to integrate into OR and I’ve heard a handful of FFing related companies will be there…Any idea if that accounts for the increase in attendance?

  5. Gus August 16th, 2010 10:49 pm

    I was at summer OR and the FFishing companies/guys were absent. I read that the OR organizers were not able to accomodate the demands of the FF industry so the combined OR show and FF show will not be happenning anytime soon.
    By the way, I met the guy from B & D Ski Crampons and he was very friendly and great to talk shop with.

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