We need peer pressure to discourage unnecessary gas-guzzling vehicles

Countries and corporations’ economies are based on unsustainable consumer growth.

We need peer pressure to discourage unnecessary gas-guzzling vehicles

Global climate change topics from melting ice caps to Australia burning increasingly fill news articles. Tearful images of environmental tragedies such as the great Pacific garbage patch fill the flat screens of those who dare to watch. The Cowichan Valley has endured successive summer droughts that stress an ecosystem which evolved to survive in a rainforest climate.

Meanwhile, much of mankind soldiers on, either unwilling to admit personal responsibility or maybe believing it’s already too late to make any lasting difference. Countries and corporations’ economies are based on unsustainable consumer growth. Some provinces are balking at the carbon tax even though its intention is to help reduce their carbon footprint. Our prime minister lauds environmentalism in one breath and approves another gas pipeline in the next.

It’s refreshing to see young people like Gretta Thunberg from Sweden taking our changing world seriously… and are worried enough about the lack of environmental commitment to speak out. An intriguing concept growing in Sweden and other countries is called “flyskam”. Essentially, it translates to “ashamed of flying” due to the extreme CO2 pollution caused by burning jet fuel. Public opinion has swayed many people to take trains or other forms of transportation, or even to stay home when travel is unnecessary. (Gretta refused to fly and hitched rides on container ships and other boats on her cross-Atlantic journeys.)

Flyskam is a great concept, though our country’s vast distances between cities may make other forms of travel less realistic. Instead, I believe in Canada we need to develop a sense of “driveskam”, that is, shaming those that choose to travel in large gas-guzzling vehicles for no other reason than prestige or machoism. No government could survive dictating what type of vehicles its citizens drive; therefore, a powerful tool is needed to persuade people out of unnecessary big vehicles. Peer group pressure is a tremendously strong motivator as every psychological experiment on the subject has shown. Let’s put public opinion to good use to rid ourselves of the giant smoke belching off-road vehicles that never leave a city street. For the sake of future life in all its forms, let’s not be the ones to stand accused of having buried our heads in the sand.

Brian Quinton


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