Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Green Velvet Fascism? little moma state?

Since some at Covenant Zone are always struggling to come up with a more precise nomenclature for our social and political betters, I thought the following story was noteworthy. It's often remarked that today's Green political religion is some kind of fascism in its desire to control peoples' behaviours. But what happens when the Greens themselves come to admit this? Do they make a real effort to accommodate greenism to human freedom?

globeandmail.com: Vancouver plan to prod citizens into behaving more green
Vancouver has come out with a 44-point plan to make you a better person and save the planet.

In an effort to make Vancouver "the greenest city" in a crowded field of municipal competitors, the plan will give you more encouragement to ride your bicycle with more routes and a public bike-share system. You'll be prodded to install low-flush toilets and insulation when you renovate or sell your home. Your garbage pickup will be reduced by half and you'll be nudged to start recycling your food scraps into green waste bins.

City council advocates of the plan swear they're not going to scold people to be green.

Penalties are pointless right now, "given that the opportunity hasn't existed for people to make good choices," Vision Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer said. "Generally speaking, this is like raising a child. You don't take a child outside and then start screaming at them for doing everything wrong."
I don't think I've ever seen a nannie statist be so frank about it... how does that change the statist?
Mayor Gregor Robertson concurred. "We're seeing examples of incentives working in other cities. So to add more initiatives that are punitive didn't make sense."

So instead of having monitors check your garbage to make sure you're recycling (the way San Francisco does) or banning certain kinds of packaging (the way Toronto does) or forcing you to install low-flush toilets when you're selling your house (like Berkeley does), the plan is all about creating opportunities, the politicians said.

Even the enforcement suggested in the Greenest City action plan - requiring that people make energy-efficient improvements if they sell or renovate their buildings extensively - will be done gently, the mayor said.

"Given that there's a significant cost, we'll look at an appropriate level of requirement," Mr. Robertson said. I think we can make that one work without being heavy-handed."

He also said the city would consider creative financing tools, such as breaks on property taxes and utility bills, to help people finance retrofits and upgrades.

Such approaches are more likely to succeed, environmental specialists said, because changing people's environmental behaviour takes a lot more than just telling them they have to be better or punishing them if they're not.

"There's quite a bit of evidence that the general carrot approach is better than the general stick approach," said Robert Gifford, a University of Victoria professor in the relatively new field of environmental-behaviour psychology, which has documented the lines of reasoning that people use to justify not altering their bad environmental ways.

Those reasons, which Mr. Gifford called the "12 dragons" of resistance, range from "how can just me riding my bike change anything" to "no one else I know is doing this" to "I don't think climate change is that big a deal." But one of the triggers to resisting is also a mistrust of authorities who appear to be acting like nannies.

Their thinking, Mr. Gifford noted, is "I don't like it when experts tell me what to do."
Or what to believe, mate... dragons? come on, Prof. "altering bad ways".
So the trick is to get people to buy into changing their behaviour by appealing to the flip side of all their resistance. So if one of their reasons for not changing is that they don't like being told what to do, a more positive approach led by someone like Mr. Robertson might work better.

"They might say, 'Oh, he's a cool guy who makes organic juice. I'll listen to what he has to say.' "
Sorry to say it, Dag, but your type obviously isn't on the behaviouralist's radar screen.

Anyway, alas, some will never have full faith in "show, don't tell":
Bans and penalties are sometimes useful because, while giving people opportunities is an important beginning, it's not always enough.

"At some point, you have to enforce some penalty," Ms. Reimer said. "But that's not the first step."
Honey, carrot or stick?


Eowyn said...

Father/Mother/Gaia knows best, don'tchaknow.

Dag said...

The mayor is cool: he told me they'll make sure my prison cell is painted green,

Lucky me.

truepeers said...

Yeah, but you get painted green too.

Dag said...

I'm green already, mostly from being envious of how cool the mayor is. Imagine become a millionaire by having the nerve to go to the produce warehouses in town to buy up old fruit and juice it as "natural" at ten bucks a gallon. Or is it twenty?

Or is my green tinge from something else?