May 16, 2014

Warning Labels for Gasoline Pumps

A plucky teen has let her voice be heard, even though she is not yet old enough to vote. Emily Kelsall, a sixteen year old living in West-Vancouver, sees clearly the link between global warming and the everyday action of filling a car's gas tank, and wants drivers to see it too. In order to help motorists connect the dots, she has taken a proposal to West Vancouver's municipal council.

The way to get her message out is very simple: put warning labels on the nozzles of gas pumps. Every time drivers fill their tank, they can't help seeing the label reminding them that every mile they drive contributes to the carbon emisssions that are causing climate change, with consequences that we can all feel even today.

Emily Kelsall was inspired to her extraordinary action by hearing a radio interview with Rob Shirkey, the founder of Our Horizon, who points out that municipalities (at least the ones in Ontario) "have the legal authority to require gasoline retailers to put warning labels on gas pumps similar to those found on cigarette packages". And that cities and towns should use that authority.

Shirkey's view is that, in the face of the planetary emergency posed by global warming, we should not wait for our governments to act to protect us - they are clearly not doing so - but we should do what we can now, at the local level.

Mayors of major cities all around the world think along the same lines, and have joined together in the C40 inititative, a network of the world's megacities committed to addressing climate change. As of this writing the group counts 67 participating cities.

West Vancouver, population 40,000, is not exactly a mega-city. But smaller municipalities are nimble in the way that mega-cities, and certainly unwieldy national governments, are not. For one thing, they will listen to individual residents make their case for novel policies.

And that is exactly what Emily Kelsall did: in a poised performance, she took ten minutes to put forward, in a methodical way, why climate change is a problem; how it is connected to the carbon emissions from cars; how putting warning labels on gas pumps serves to remind drivers that their actions have consequences; and what's in it for West Vancouver.

It is heartening to see that the West Vancouver council members immediately reacted positively to the proposal. They had a few questions which Kelsall had no trouble answering: she came well prepared. She also pointed out that Our Horizon can help towns sort through the legal nitty-gritty of getting the measure in place.

The words "voice" and "vote" has the same root. Emily Kelsall has made her voice be heard: her local government has listened, and is proving willing to consider her proposal seriously. I am sure that they are well aware that Emily, and all her friends and supporters, will remember, come the next election cycle, how they actually acted on the proposal.



You may also like:
1. Ten Ways to Calm Car Traffic
2. How to talk with our children about global warming
3. The Toyota Yaris is Not a "Teen" Car


1 comment:

  1. Wow ... I love this! It's such a simple solution but it's impact could be huge! Thanks for sharing it, CelloMom!


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