One of the biggest problems of environmentalists is, to my mind, the fact they don’t explain their cause too well. They don’t evangelize people and they don’t educate. Let’s face it, being green and environmentally friendly is expensive. You either have to buy more expensive products, which have been manufactured in manners friendly to the environment. Or you have to pay for the damage you produce.
The environment is a common good. Like any common good, it suffers the tragic fate of common goods. Everybody wants to use them, nobody wants to pay for them. Unless people are shown step by step why building an eco-house is beneficial and even wiser from an economic standpoint (at least in the long run), they will never build one, despite an abundance of providers of such constructions. I recently concluded, with a friend who runs the most comprehensive awareness raising programme on corporate social responsbility in Romania (http://www.responsabilitatesociala.ro), that we have to bridge the gap between manufacturers of green products, green policies and the regular consumer.
Take a very recent European development, for instance. Today, the European Parliament is reviewing its stance on the Eurovignette - environmental charging for trucks. Because of the economic burden, this “internalization of external costs” will most likely evolve in a non-mandatory directive. As strange as that might sound, I know… Naturally, the overall goal of improving the current status of the environment will be affected, because few will pay. You can read more details about this on Euractiv.
The same discussion around road taxation for environmental purposes brings in the debate another interesting aspect, which could perhaps mitigate the risks of making the tragedy of environment as common good even more tragic. I am speaking about earmarking, which policy-makers reject, thus turning environmental fees into regular fees that people of course oppose. A good example is the Romanian “first registration” tax, whereby registering a car in Romania requires the owner to pay an environmental feel, which however is not earmarked. There have been protests against this, but the result is that Romanians register their cars in Bulgaria in order to avoid taxation
To conclude, much more should be done if policy-makers want to make environmental protection really effective and supported by people. Which also brings me to a question. Dear Th!nkers, would you be willing to pay more just to be green?