Getting from Me to We

A friend sent along these recent Gallup Poll results, from a poll taken Mar. 23-25:

Steps the Government Can Take to Reduce Global Warming (by party identification):
|Dem. | Ind. | Rep. | (percentage saying “should be doing”)|
|72 | 64 | 58 | Starting major research effort to develop new energy sources|
|72 | 60 | 47 | Requiring government office buildings to use renewable energy sources|
|59 | 43 | 36 | Requiring surcharge on utility bills when energy use limits exceeded |
|59 | 44 | 26 | Banning vehicles that do not average at least 30 miles per gallon |
|47 | 35 | 26 | Setting land-use policies to discourage suburban sprawl |
|46 | 40 | 28 | Imposing tough restrictions on U.S. industries and utilities |

While Americans, especially Democrats and Independents, were quite enthusiastic about taking individual steps to combat global warming (over 75%, and over 80% of Dems and Inds, said they should be “spending thousands of dollars to make [my] home energy efficient” and “riding mass transit whenever possible”), they’re much cooler towards government (“We the People”) “making these choices for them.” Not even a majority of Democrats want to discourage sprawl, and Independents seem quite wary of government intervention.

The Dem vs. Ind gap is especially strange given that another Gallup poll found that just under half of both Dems and Inds think that “Immediate, drastic action [is] needed to address environmental problems.” So, what kind of “immediate, drastic” action is palatable to those elusive centrist independent swing voters? Or is this impossible until civil society is restored from its current sad state? (Sorry, but we can’t wait for that.)

Perhaps we should focus on teaching people that urbanism means higher quality of life, wiser investment of scarce resources, and greater choices — while saving the world, of course.

One thought on “Getting from Me to We

  1. On the other hand, an eloquent anti-Earth Day call to arms by Alex Steffens at “WorldChanging”:

    bq. We need to make people participants, not consumers. We need answers that address peoples’ lives, not their lifestyles… We need to help each other. Consumer-based approaches and “simple things” lists tend to reinforce our sense that the only sphere in which we can act is our own little private lives, and that isolates us. But the isolation we all sometimes feel in the face of the magnitude of the problems is itself a major part of the problem. None of us can change the world single-handedly: as Wendell Berry says, “to work at this work alone is to fail.” We need to organize, mobilize, join together, act in concert.

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