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Two outdoor industry associations. Which one (really) cares about the future?

What’s in a name? There’s the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, for example, which says it works to “improve the experience and quality of life of outside enthusiasts everywhere.” Its 35 member organizations include the three major RV associations, each of which has a representative on the roundtable’s 19-member board of directors: the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), the RV Dealers Association (RVDA) and the RV Industry Association (RVIA). Outdoor recreation certainly sounds eco-friendly.

And then there’s the Outdoor Industry Association, which describes itself as “dedicated to industry-wide collaboration to achieve meaningful change in recreation and trade policy, sustainable business innovation and increasing outdoor participation.” Its approximately 1,200 members include familiar brands like Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean and REI, but also the American Camping Association, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the Arbor Day Foundation. Still, outdoor “industry” does sound exploitative, and not nearly as warm and fuzzy as a recreation roundtable.

So guess which one has been lobbying Congress to adopt the climate provisions of the reconciliation bill that is foundering on the shoals of Senator Joe Manchin’s objections? And guess which one has been completely mum on the subject, even though the bill would funnel billions of dollars into combating the effects of extreme weather on the “beloved lands and waters” it claims to treasure?

Despite the confusing similarity of names, the Outdoor Industry Association is just one of the roundtable’s 35 members – and of the 1,200 members claimed by the Outdoor Industry Association, not one is an RV manufacturer or supplier. Curiously, the association’s only RVing representative is Kampgrounds of America. But Leisure Systems Inc., owner of the Jellystone Park franchise, doesn’t belong. Neither do Airstream or Winnebago or Thor Industries, which claimed in 1980 that it had “embarked on a journey to connect people with nature.” Nor do Thetford or Camco, Dicor or Wilcor or Onan – all major manufacturers or suppliers to the RV industry.

It’s as though there were two distinct outdoor worlds – one populated by people and businesses that cherish clean air and water and embrace a “leave no trace” ethic, and one occupied by the RV industry in its various permutations that gives only lip service to environmental values.

So, ironically, while the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable ignores an overriding existential threat to its long-term interests, it’s the organization that embraces “industry” in its name that’s been ringing the alarm. Last month, the Outdoor Industry Association wrote to the Congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle to express “strong support for the significant and meaningful climate provisions” in the reconciliation bill. “Our companies, as well as those that make up our $788 billion outdoor industry and our 5.2 million employees, are at the front lines of the fight against climate change,” the letter observed, adding that “the federal government needs to do more if we are going to prevent the worst effects of climate change.”

This past week the association followed up with a press release urging “bold and immediate climate action from our government.” As explained by Lise Aangeenbrug, the association’s executive director, the reconciliation bill “offers a once-in-a-generation chance to enact meaningful provisions to address climate change and ensure the success of the outdoor industry and the American economy and protect the health of the planet.”

Meanwhile, as world leaders gather in Glasgow this weekend for the UN Climate Change Conference, a mute ARVC is making final preparations for a four-day national convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, that will kick off on Nov. 8. Of the several dozen workshops and panels that have been planned, not one addresses climate change or the way a growing number of campgrounds have been assaulted by drought, forest fires, flooding and hurricane-strength winds. The closest possible acknowledgment of what we are all experiencing is a session titled “Preparing Parks for Disasters in the Post Covid World,” which is to say, a session that seems to resign its participants to an inevitable outcome.

Not that this comes as a surprise. ARVC, it should be noted, still clings to a view of global climate change that dates back nearly a quarter of a century. Its 1998 policy on the subject contends that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would cripple the American public’s ability “to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities,” that there is “considerable uncertainty surrounding the theories on climate change,” and therefore that the best course of action is to do nothing until all the evidence is in. Which, apparently, is the view that also dominates the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

On the other side of the industry-recreation divide, however, is a cutting-edge group within the Outdoor Industry Association called the Climate Action Corps, comprising dozens of the association’s members who have banded together under a pledge to become the world’s first climate positive industry by 2030. “Climate positive is a summit that very few companies are pursuing,” the group acknowledges. “Yet, if we don’t carve a new, bold path for our industry and others to follow, we will ultimately fail to protect the outdoor experience upon which we all depend.”

What’s in a name? For RVers who are in it for the enjoyment of nature, perhaps everything – but the industry group that most closely represents their interests has gone AWOL.

##RVT1024

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Bill H.
1 month ago

The Outdoor Industry Association is doing nothing unusual by reaching out to Congress about climate change because they believe that it’s better to have a seat at the climate change table than be the main course. This is politics 101. The Outdoor Industry Association hope to be able to have some influence on the direction climate change legislation is going so as to protect the members of the Association. It may work, and it may not, because the direction that legislation goes is all too often determined by who has the loudest voice and who contributes the most money. At some point the Association may find that future legislation is detrimental to some of its members and supportive of other members. What will it do then? If past is prologue, it will eject those members in favor of the legislation.

Tom Oliver
1 month ago

Thanks for the article. Well said!

John H.
1 month ago

The earth has been given to us to maintain and enjoy. It has evolved and changed over the last couple thousand years we have documented. The current government entities are making a political push out of an issue that should be more personal. We should all be good stewards of our environment, clean up after ourselves. We were given vast amounts of oil, coal and natural gas to fuel our societal needs as we become more technologically advanced. Do you really think our Creator would booby trap these reserves to destroy our environment? There have been great advancements across the board in making everything better. Wind and Solar are getting closer to being practical but without subsidies are not sustainable or reliable enough to abandon long term reliable power. Nuclear is very reliable but disposal is difficult and costly. Oil and Gas have been advancing at remarkable speed and have been made very reliable and will stay for a long time without crippling govt. overreach.

E. Laws
1 month ago
Reply to  John H.

It’s not so much that fossil fuels are “booby traps”, but over the past 50 years it’s become painfully clear what burning them is doing to our atmosphere and health. I remember visiting family in the LA metro area in the mid-70’s, standing in the middle of the block and not being able to see past the nearest corner due to smog. I remember flying over other cities and seeing the brown smear hovering above and enveloping them. It took government intervention at both the state and federal levels to force change for the better. We now have cleaner choices and they’re becoming better all the time, and generating all kinds of jobs to boot. There is no downside. India and China are struggling to wean themselves off fossils (did you know China is the world’s leading manufacturer of solar panels?). But they’re dealing with infrastructure and populations three times the US’s. But they are eager markets for US energy products!

Susan RN MPH
1 month ago

Thank you for your thoughtful article outlining the huge difference between the two groups. Unfortunately, there are so many who only pay lip service to caring about our environment but really only care about their bottom line.

Vincee
1 month ago

For those who believe our government can predict and prevent climate change, especially through legislation and our tax dollars, remember that the next time your weatherman predicts a beautiful sunny day for your outdoor plans only to be ruined by thundershowers and wind the whole day.

Since the beginning of the existence of this planet, there has been climate change! The only difference now is our scientific community has been nationalized by government going back to the Manhatten Project. Meaning today it is just a political football, Hike!

Ln Em
1 month ago
Reply to  Vincee

it again is unfortunate that some responders to this forum have to dredge up politics in their posts.

it is further broadly unfortunate that it seems lack of critical reasoning ability has happened within a lot of people who militantly embrace willful ignorance and intellectual laziness

Armand Vaquer
1 month ago
Reply to  Ln Em

This has already been made political. Articles like this only adds fuel to the fire.

Vic
1 month ago

Everyone should research all of Al Gore’s doomsday predictions. He was wrong on every single one all while becoming a multimillionaire selling his climate hogwash and living a lifestyle he claims is destroying the world and would forbid others from living if he could

Dave
1 month ago

I’m not sure if this article is about climate change or RVing. If it’s about climate change in the Greta Thunberg and AOC model, then fuel guzzling RV camping is done.

Drew
1 month ago
Reply to  Dave

🙂

Robin Pack
1 month ago

power, control and greed…agendas in disguise no matter how it’s worded, period!

Leo Suarez
1 month ago

I can’t understand how you think the green new deal (which is what the climate provisions is but cleverly renamed) will actually help Americans. The 3 biggest polluters in the world, China, Russia, and India all have decades to implement any of the restrictions and costs the Paris agreements called for yet we somehow have to pay now, why? Because they provide excuses which our incompetent leaders swallow hook-line-and sinker. Decades from now when supposedly they will have to begin doing something I am sure they will come up with new excuses to delay. Notice China and Russia are not bothering attending the Scotland meeting, Zoom attendance is good enough for them. In the meantime the US has done more to eliminate pollution in the past decade than any other major country all without the idiotic restrictions and costs of the Paris agreements. I have no qualms in my Class A burning diesel all over the US, and will continue to do so as long as I can.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

The OIA and your cartoon have a lot in common. Next time you visit a campground or a camp where folks use tents, take note which brands are out there. You won’t see a TV or a rocking chair.

TIM MCRAE
1 month ago

What will crush this industry is rising prices.

Fuel all the way to Enviro Fees and CG’s put out of business by rising costs and diminishing bookings.

“Climate positive is a summit that very few companies are pursuing,”, is a lie.

Many of the biggest companies are already taking steps far in advance of the minimum requirements.

Instead of flapping your gums in order to create division and guilt, why don’t you celebrate the successes that ARE occurring and promote change by recognizing leadership.

In my short life I have seem pollution abated world wide. I have seem the skies go from brown to blue over our major cities, renewable energy scaled up, and life expectancy increased (the list is much longer).

Much of our corporate growth has come from new technologies and ingenuity.

Insane activism and over regulation stifles growth and change and will doom us all.

We must lead from a position of a strong economy and energy independence.

Bill T
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Agreed. Well said.

Marvin Moolenaar
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Amen

Rick K
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Agreed, well said. Also add that I’m over 50 and approaching 60. I remember being told the earth was going to go up in flames before the year 2000. Since that didn’t happen, it had to be changed to “Climate Change”. It’s called weather and seasons. If anyone thinks man causes it, then why can’t man fix it (without massive amounts of money sent to the government, which is the real problem).

Randall Joe Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

Why should the U.S. have to carry the ball when we are the least polluter of all?

Ruining our economy will not help world wide pollution when we contribute much less to the problem than China or India.

If ALL the world would EQUALLY address the issue at the same time, that would make a big difference and would be equitable.

I contend that all the readers of this publication would agree to the need to preserve the world. But many of us don’t want to see the economic impact to this country and ourselves with draconian regulations and policies.

Duane R
1 month ago

I will start by commenting regarding Rick K’s comment about the world going up in flames. I am 65 and when I was in junior and high school, our cars were going to freeze the earth with our pollution. Now, it is warming we are concerned about.

I must ask why, with the available temperature charts covering 50,000 years, do we think that this temperature range we are experiencing is the optimal for earth? Yes, we need to do as much as we can to minimize our impact, without returning us to the stone age. But, there are scientists showing that volcanic activity and solar activity contribute much more to climate change (warming and cooling) than humans do, in spite of all the pollution China and India contribute. We need to reduce the pollution man creates, but it is not going to happen by taxing Americans while ignoring most of the rest of the world’s contributions.

Armand Vaquer
1 month ago
Reply to  Duane R

Nailed it!

Tony
1 month ago

Very informative and thoughtful article. We are currently circling North America in our class A motorhome and though we find ourselves drawn to the beautiful places in nature we care so much about, I feel guilty about all the negative impacts we are making, especially at the fuel pump.

I think we have to do all we can to protect the world we leave to our grandchildren but that juxtaposed with how we ourselves waste and pollute is quite the dilemma. I don’t have the answers but am glad at least one association is taking this seriously.