Unsatisfying Weekend (Neither restful nor productive...)

Wound up working most of the weekend, which was a bad thing, because I really needed to have a few days of down time. Oh well. Got some work done for a client, but not all that needed to get done. Spent 3 or 4 hours reviewing TurboGears and SQLAlchemy for another client project. Should have gone out for coffee with friends or something.

Earth Hour was nice with Soni, but just an hour long. Apparently Toronto hit its target (8% reduction), but honestly walking around our neighbourhood you really had to know what was going on to even be able to detect the change. The SUV drivers were all out in Saturday-night force, the rich neighbourhoods were lit up (literally) with Christmas-tree lights.

There was one kid out on his balcony shouting at his neighbours to turn out their lights (yay kids). A few couples out walking and one lone chap staring up at the sky... the light pollution was just as bad as usual. Made you yearn for the blackout of a few years ago.

We did have a neat idea for a YouTube video. Get ~300 environmentalists together, hand a dozen of them axes and have them dismantle an SUV parked somewhere downtown. It would be nice if you could actually take apart some self-indulgent lout's machine, but that wouldn't be legal. Probably have to buy it (ick, paying money for an SUV).

Also thinking of a nice, simple mass-action for discouraging the SUV-ites. Simple, direct; when you see someone driving an SUV, slowly shake your head in disappointment and disgust at the stupidity of the driver. Throw in a disgusted sneer and snort if you like. It's not necessarily the driver that you're targeting, the people around you are probably more likely to affect purchasing decisions.

This kind of social pressure won't affect the "if I crash into someone I want to crush them" people. They can't seem to grasp that they've created a net increase in deaths and that they are now just as likely to be killed because their idiotic machines crash into other idiotic machines and nothing gives way. It might, however, affect the "my truck is a proxy for my manhood" people.

Maybe with some straightforward expressions of disgust we could make a dent of more than 8% of an hour.


  1. Ian Bicking

    Ian Bicking on 03/30/2008 10:05 p.m. #

    I used to feel more aggressively opposed to SUVs than I do now. Not that I like them any more than before, but I don't know how constructive anonymous judgment can really be. Judgment made clear to peers, sure. But to some random person on the street? I don't know. I fear all you can do is polarize and alienate people that way. But I'm not sure what a good alternative would be.<br />
    <br />
    Consumerist/commercial society encourages people to consume, sure. It dominates public discourse. It's hard to get out an anti-SUV message. But is an anti- messages are... well, they are a hard message to make. TV doesn't want to put them on for good reason. Not just that it's bad for the other advertisers. It makes TV not fun. Anti-* messages make people feel bad. Making people feel bad isn't a good way to make people better. It leads more to avoidance than reform. Everyone wants to be a good environmentalist. It's not the core desire that's missing. People want to do the right thing, but they avoid doing the right thing, avoid thinking about what it means, because it sucks to think about that sort of stuff. It just sucks. You can say that people are being irresponsible by avoiding it, but it's a weak argument, because it doesn't actually get anyone to change it just condemns people for their inevitable failures.<br />
    <br />
    Consumerism is a very positive, inclusive message. If you have the money, you're in. You don't have to morally justify yourself to the salesman. As a consumer, everything you do is great because there's always someone there to say "thank you, have a nice day!" Environmentalism has a hard time competing. Hell, it doesn't even try to compete.

  2. Mike Fletcher

    Mike Fletcher on 03/31/2008 7:17 a.m. #

    I wonder if maybe we need some polarization in the issue? We've got a huge body of research saying that we're looking at a global meltdown with a hard tipping point. While we have to take any such predictions with a grain of salt, there is some point at which you accept the science and say "okay, it's time to stop being polite and accepting of bad choices".<br />
    <br />
    North Americans seem to be expecting that they will be heavily insulated from the damage and are, as a result, ignoring the issue for the most part. We need to be willing to tell people "that's just not socially acceptable any more, grow up and help out".<br />
    <br />
    Yes, governmental regulation is cleaner and simpler, but it's easier for politicians to make a decision if they can see that the populace backs the idea. I'm not saying it's the solution, but it certainly makes for a nice conversation starter :) .

  3. Blake Winton

    Blake Winton on 04/01/2008 5:11 p.m. #

    As an optimistic counter-point, the rich neighbourhood I live in was mostly dark. I think there were only two houses with lights on on the block where I live. (Of course, the apartment buildings away down the street were almost completely lit up, but you do what you can, right?)<br />
    <br />
    Going back to Ian's point, maybe the way to get people to change is to give them better options of things to buy. See the Prius, and the Smart car, and Bullfrog Power, and organic vegetables. Surely someone can figure out what people like about SUVs, and offer them more of that, plus better fuel efficiency, and less death?<br />

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