Kennedy preaches nature's gospel at OR Summer Market

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. took to the podium on Friday the 13th at the annual Gore Roundtable, Summer Market attendees were lucky indeed to soak up his artful and practiced rhetoric: Nature is good and we should protect it, was the crux of his message. "We should recognize that nature enriches us," he said. "When we destroy nature, we diminish ourselves."

When Robert F. Kennedy Jr. took to the podium on Friday the 13th at the annual Gore Roundtable, Summer Market attendees were lucky indeed to soak up his artful and practiced rhetoric: Nature is good and we should protect it, was the crux of his message. "We should recognize that nature enriches us," he said. "When we destroy nature, we diminish ourselves."

To make his point, Kennedy, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, talked poetically and as quickly as a rushing Class IV river about his favored environmental group River Keepers, his memories of Washington, D.C., and the White House as a young boy before and during the Kennedy presidency, free market capitalism, and nature's role in religion, art and literature.

River Keepers watching over our waterways
There are 121 licensed River Keepers associate groups from Washington to Mexico to Maine to Florida, making it the fastest-growing environmental group in the country, he said. More than 300 applications for additional groups are pending, he added. Members are fisherman and others who look after waterways and ensure that companies aren't illegally dumping toxic waste. According to Kennedy, their job is not just protecting rivers, but also about helping the public, industries and local governments realize that no choice has to be made between economic prosperity and environmental protection. One hundred percent of the time, Kennedy asserted, good environmental policy is good economic policy and one does not have to choose between the two.

"In the past, the Hudson River caught on fire," he said. "It turned colors and was dead water. Now, it is a major water system. It has strong spawning stock and is the last refuge for many animals."

Now, he asked rhetorically, if all it takes to turn the Hudson River from a wasted waterway into a splendorous stream is a group of fisherman trolling for polluters, then why aren't we living in the Garden of Eden? Because, Kennedy said, for the past eight or nine years, the government has been passing anti-environment policies. "All pollution is a hidden subsidy," he said. "I am the strongest advocate for free-market capitalism. It would help eliminate pollution.

"Young policy-makers don't have memories of what it was like when you couldn't see down the block in Washington for the smog," he said.

Taking action to protect the environment
Kennedy's solution for changing the way government deals with environmental protection is simple. "Locally-based democracy is the only way environmental protection is possible," he said. "Environmental injury has matured into economic catastrophe."

Plus, he added, "Our children are going to pay for our joyride."

Despite this dismal declaration, Kennedy looked on the bright side briefly before admonishing his listeners to take action as soon as possible.

"Don't be ashamed about not having the history that Europe does," he said. "As Americans, you have a direct connection with wilderness, which is the undiluted work of the creator and it will shape who you are as a people. Religions, art, literature…all of them are taken from nature and wilderness. All prophets come out of the wilderness. Our language is made up of words that come from nature. We can best sense the divine when we go out into the wilderness. People need to go out and renew themselves. When we destroy these things, it's like tearing the last pages out of the last bible."

Admonishment: Get involved for the next generation
Responding to a query regarding what he thought the outdoor industry could or should do, Kennedy stated firmly that the industry needs to become involved nationally and locally at the government level. "Be involved in the political process," he said. "Political endorsement from business people, sending a message to the politicians is the most important thing. Business (leaders) have more credibility in the political process (than environmental groups).

And, again, he thumped on his theme of thinking of our children: "We have an obligation to the next generation," he said. "We have a trustee relationship to the next generation. We can live on the interest, but we can't go into the capital. That belongs to our children.

"We didn't inherit the planet from our ancestors," he added. "We borrowed it from our children."

SNEWS® View: No argument from the SNEWS® team with Mr. Kennedy when he stated, "Environmental advocacy is about recognizing that nature is the infrastructure of our communities and our lives." As an industry, we have proven that very point by making a strong stand regarding our trade show's location and Utah, and our opposition to any politically-motivated decisions that leave our public lands open for extractive pillaging. We have proven that political leaders really do listen when the voices are from those that can and will affect their voting constituency's pocketbooks.

However, at the same time, we offer this word of caution to the industry: Political activism for the benefit of our environment and for the protection of public lands and recreational resources that ultimately determine the health of our businesses is a far cry from an OIA endorsement of politicians as we have heard some industry leaders begin to demand. Our industry association must not become a platform for endorsement of candidates or of various candidate positions. We, as an industry, and OIA as an association, must remain above partisan politics and instead remain that unified voice for protecting environmental and recreational resources and our business interests that any political party can and will listen to. That said, we need many more industry business leaders and retailers willing and able to stand up and be counted when lands and recreation are threatened at the local and national level. And, we need all of the industry to join in as members of the OIA. If you are not a member, why not?


OR Summer Market: Travel Overview

During tough financial times, travel expenditures are the first to go and the last to come back. In 2001, the travel industry was hit with a recession and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, followed by the war in Iraq in 2003. Some sectors of the economy may be sputtering back to more

OR Summer Market: Lifestyle Apparel

Attracting a younger and perhaps hipper customer was one driving force behind the designs of lifestyle apparel companies exhibiting at Summer Market as companies known as more conservative, such as Woolrich, Royal Robbins and White Sierra, came out this season with designs more


BOB awards -- OR Summer Market 2003

It takes a lot of time, preparation and money to create a successful trade show booth that attracts buyers and creates a buzz on the show floor – or even makes non-buying passers-by stop and gawk. The SNEWS team thinks those companies that took the extra effort to build more

OR Summer Market '04 Trends -- Climbing

The SNEWS® team -- which included eight editors -- spent the entire four days of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2004 scouting out the trade show scene from the paddle tank to the climbing wall and even around the dusty and quiet corners of private rooms and hidden booths. Each more

OR Summer Market '04 Trends -- Travel

Travel Market OverviewWhen Eagle Creek wants to gauge how the travel market is faring, it takes a trip… to the cosmetics aisle. If makeup sales are down, travel is up, up, up and away. Why? Because according to company executives, when people feel good about how they look, more

OR Summer Market '03: Women's Products

Thankfully, it seems the days of being second-class citizens are over for women. From apparel to packs, manufacturers are giving the girls their props and designing products to fit women's curves, style tastes and needs, rather than giving them boys' hand-me-downs, simply more

OR Summer Market: Hydration still growing

OK, we all need to drink enough water and liquids -- call it "hydrate" if you want to sound really knowledgeable with your non-techy friends. And that message is spreading more soundly among the general public. So maybe that's why the number of hydration-focused companies (not more