Since 1989, warning labels, scary statistics and graphic images of ghastly teeth have been printed on tobacco products in an effort to curb smoking among Canadians.
Now a group of environmental activists hope to employ the same technique for another worthy cause but this time, at the gas pumps.
The non-profit Our Horizon is working with municipalities throughout Canada to make it mandatory for climate change warning labels to be placed on all gas pump nozzles.
Rather than diseased lungs, these campaign stickers feature eye-catching photos, such as deer traversing a snowy landscape or a vibrant ocean coral reef rife with tropical fish. Under each photo, a bold block of text warns of the consequences of using gasoline.
The concept, which is the brainchild of Our Horizon founder and Toronto lawyer, Robert Shirkey, is already catching on across the country.
This past January, city council in West Vancouver and Moncton unanimously voted to support Our Horizon’s recommendations
Shirkey believes that this idea is possibly the least costly climate change intervention campaign on the planet. It’s low cost, but with high impact.
“The simple act of pumping gas is automatic, it’s habitual. It’s been normalized for generations. So what [these stickers] do is it de-moralizes the status quo and stimulates broader demands for alternatives,” Shirkey said in an interview with the CBC. “It actually creates a politician to then introduce A, B and C, because we’ve created a social environment that favours that.”
Unsurprisingly, however, some gas retailers are less enthused about the campaign.
David Knight, a spokesperson for the Canadian Convenience Store Association, says municipalities shouldn’t only target gas pumps if they’re actually looking to raise awareness about climate change.
“If municipalities are truly serious about increasing climate-change awareness and effecting behavioural change among consumers, then perhaps every home, business and public institution consuming energy linked to fossil fuels for heat, power or air conditioning in a municipality should be required to have a climate-change warning label on the front door,” Knight said in an interview with the National Post.
Currently, West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith is hoping to get support from the provincial and federal government so the stickers can become mandated.
Until then, Smith is starting small. He owns several commercial car lots and will be using the labels on his pumps this summer.