2.22.2006

Feel guilty?


Guilty
Originally uploaded by drewbo.
First of all, "growing participation" has nothing to do with involvement in extracurricular green leaf operations. Thanks for asking.

Second of all, one of our three readers sent a note recently asking if the outdoor world's call for "growing participation" was on a collision course with the new sustainability movement.

The answer, of course, depends on your definitions.

Most of the outdoor world wants to believe that GP would behave like a bell curve, and that with a moderate and democratic sprinkling of advocacy efforts the entire outdoor world will sneak up just a smidgen.

Crowded areas would get a little more crowded, wild areas would get a little more popular, and everybody would sell a little more gear.

But what if it's not? What if it's a Power-Law Curve instead? (see Malcolm Gladwell's article in the Feb. 20 New Yorker for a full explanation ... awesome).

Instead of the familiar camel's hump of a bell curve, the Power-Law Curve is shaped like a hockey stick ... flat, flat, flat, flat and then BOOM.

It seems to me that the outdoor world might actually fit into this pattern in a number of ways.

Participation-wise, we've got 25 or so outdoor activities that are relatively unchanging from year to year, and an occasional rock star that sends bodies into the field in literal herds.

Selling gear-wise, we've got a batch of trade shows full of companies that are doing single-digit growth or declining, and a handful of companies that are absolutely, positvely, killing it at retail.

Land-use wise, we've got millions of acres of un-tapped outdoor potential, yet everybody still goes to Moab and Teton Pass.

So, to answer the original question, GP is compatible with sustainability ... as long as we acknowledge the truth.

Sustainability isn't about making people feel guilty about their current and past successes, it's about planning for the future.

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