Gas pump stickers an idea too soon?

I’ve always believed that to change things for the better, taking a stand is a good place to begin.

There are few people on Earth who still believe that climate change is a myth, and that we should keep relying on fossil fuels.

Small label, big message.

Small label, big message.

On Thursday (Aug. 20), a young man came to the TNRD board meeting with an idea.

Matt Hulse of Our Horizon, a non-profit group, wanted us to endorse a plan to put stickers on gas-pump handles warning consumers that the product they’re about to put into their tanks contributes to the denigration of our environment in various ways.

I thought it was a good idea. The cost was low — about $14 per pump — and it was an awareness builder. I figured there was no need to worry about the gas-bar owners because their pumps are already loaded with messaging for everything from how gas taxes work to admonishing us to turn off our engines to cheap deals on slushees and potato chips.

Since there are few gas pumps in rural areas, it would be a tough sell at the regional district level, and Kamloops council had already turned down the idea the day before. But I made a motion anyway to support the concept at September’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver.

It already has quite a bit of support at the municipal level. The West Vancouver council passed a resolution in January “that all vendors of retail petroleum products in Canada be legislated to provide warning labels on all pump handles.” Fifty communities across Canada have endorsed it.

The process is simple — make the labels a condition of business licences.

In making the motion, I fully realized that individual directors aren’t bound to vote in a particular way at the UBCM convention. It might have been better to propose that the board support the concept in principle and leave it at that, but talk is cheap unless you attach some sort of action to it.

Kamloops director Tina Lange seconded the motion and supported it, but that’s about as far as it got. Every other director who spoke on the motion opposed it for various reasons and it was overwhelmingly defeated.

I understand the reasoning: the gas-pump strategy is incomplete in that there obviously must be a much broader strategy. It would be best if senior levels of government took the lead. We can’t tell individual directors how to vote. And so on.

I just figured it was a way to say something, instead of nothing. Matt Hulse and his group are trying to do a small and easy thing about a big problem; I think we as local politicians should try, too.

You win some and lose some, and the good news is that the proposal will be on the agenda at the UBCM convention anyway. The bad news is that it will probably be shot down there, as well, and for similar reasons.

Sometimes, we get so tied up in the details that we lose sight of the big picture. I’m hopeful the Our Horizon initiative will gain momentum and become part of a much bigger campaign that will change our assumptions about caring for our planet.

Maybe next year, a year closer to all the bad outcomes of our reliance on fossil fuels, Mr. Hulse will have better luck.

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