I don’t typically give much weight to surveys, particularly ones that have been paid for by private interests, but a new national (Canadian) survey — a joint effort by Bosch Home Appliances and Leger Marketing — caught my attention. It addresses the question of whether people who waste energy and senselessly pollute are at risk of becoming social outcasts in our increasingly green-conscious society. Or, as the survey press release calls them, “environmental delinquents.”
According to the survey of 1,510 adult Canadians, “a full 7 in 10 Canadians say it’s a social faux pas to do things that are environmentally irresponsible.” Dr. David Bell, a professor of environmental studies at Toronto’s York University, compares this social trend to how some people look down on smokers.
He said a combination of green legislation, public policy incentives and disincentives, and leadership from government, schools and corporations has increased awareness so much that he expects within five years the “eco-delinquent” label might stick. “Canadians are starting to close the gap between their eco-beliefs and their actions — and while we have a ways to go, I see this country at the cusp of great social change,” said Bell.
I’m somewhat skeptical, at least with regards to his optimistic timeline. I do think that as a society we’ll have no choice but to change our views on such things. Just as we automatically fasten seatbelts, take out the green bin, and accept that smoking isn’t appropriate in public places, I think there will be a social stigma at some point attached to people who feel it’s their right to pollute and waste without limit, or who simply don’t think about the consequences of their actions in the grand scheme of things.
If and when we get to this point, I wonder if the pressure to Keep Up With the Joneses will create a market of green imposters — people who want to appear green, but don’t want to pay the money required to get there. I’m thinking about fake solar panels for residential rooftops, and stickers for cars and homes that suggest people have efficient vehicles or use green power…
It’s sad that I’m even considering such things.