The town council of West Vancouver, British Columbia, has voted unanimously to add stickers to all gas pumps in the city warning motorists of the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. The final design of the stickers has not been decided upon, but several proposals are under consideration. “West Vancouver is always at the leading edge of things like this,” West Vancouver mayor Michael Smith told Canada’s Global News. “It is the nature of our community.”
The idea of putting labels on gas pumps is being promoted by Our Horizon, a Toronto based climate advocacy group whose motto is, “Think globally, Act municipally.” Rob Shirkey, who heads up Our Horizon says part of the challenge is that many people don’t feel connected enough to the problem. “It is abstract, it is far away, it is distant,” says Shirkey. “I think it is part of the reason we fail to act on it. If you can help make people feel a little bit more connected to the problem, that’s a way of creating greater impetus to address it.”
Shirkey tells Think Progress, “[The goal] is not to have someone drop the pump and walk away from the vehicle. We have a habitual automatic downstream behavior — we don’t think about pumping gas. We all say in Canada, ‘shame on Alberta, shame on tar sands,’ but by pointing fingers up-stream, we distance ourselves from the problem.” Shirkey says that when people see the stickers, they will be able to better understand how the problem of climate change is affected by their everyday behaviors. “It makes us feel more connected to the problem,” he says. “It makes it feel a little more tangible, a little more proximate, and prompts this ‘OK, what can I do?’ response.”
TIP O’Neil, former Speaker of the House of Representatives once said, “All politics is local.” At at time when national leaders seem unwilling or unable to come to grips with the enormous problems associated with climate change, altering individual attitudes at the local level may be the best way to promote effective climate action.
Elon Musk has said recently, “I think people should be a lot more worried than they are.” He believes the damage from high carbon dioxide levels won’t begin to be really felt until at least 2035. “Life will continue, but it will be a train wreck in slow motion. Millions of people will die; there will be trillions of dollars in damage—that sort of thing.” Could a simple sticker on gas pumps begin to make ordinary people more aware of the impending danger? Perhaps. A wise man once said, “If the people will lead, their leaders will follow.”
Photo credits: Our Horizon