Almost three years ago we covered the campaign by Robert Shirkey and his group OurHorizon.org, to get warning labels made mandatory on gas pumps. In an exchange with a cranky commenter who thought that this would never happen, he responded “Sigh. Let’s have this conversation again in a few years time when we see what comes of it.”
Robert Shirkey at Green Living Show/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
And now, a couple of years later, they are finally being made mandatory in the city of North Vancouver. Quoted in the CBC, Rob calls the vote “a historic first.” Rob’s stickers that were shown on TreeHugger probably won’t be the ones on the pumps; the Mayor is being a bit more middle-of-the road. According to the CBC:
[Mayor] Mussatto said it was important for councillors not to focus on just the harm caused by fossil fuel, but also pragmatic solutions that an ordinary person could implement, such as taking transit or not idling unnecessarily, “I couldn’t live without my vehicle, but I can certainly reduce the number of trips I do use it for,” he said.
But Shirkey cautioned that just like with health warnings on cigarette packaging, one can’t shy away from negative messaging. “If it’s too positive, which is what the industry is advocating for, then we’re avoiding the problem and not addressing the issue of climate change,” he said.
In our earlier post, Rob explained the rationale for a strong message.
The warning label connects behaviour with its consequence right at the point of purchase. Its placement on the nozzle takes a problem of diffuse origins and locates responsibility right in the palm of your hand. The label itself takes far away consequences – like famine, the extinction of species and extreme weather – and brings them into the here and now. The concept also internalizes cost in a qualitative way; it communicates information to the marketplace in a way that a 10-cent increase at the pump never will. Finally, the label is mirror: it is about acknowledging the role we each play in contributing to climate change and bravely facing up to the challenge.
Let’s hope that North Vancouver doesn’t water down the concept too much, and make it too wishy-washy.