Rob Shirkey is the director of Our Horizon, an organization advocating for climate change warnings on gas pumps worldwide. He gave a passionate presentation earlier this month at the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series, demonstrating with convincing enthusiasm the value in the simple, yet transformative idea for which he has been tirelessly lobbying since early 2013.

With a goal of stimulating a broader demand for reform from the bottom up, Shirkey believes that a risk disclosure label should be mandatory on gas pumps across the Canada, and eventually the world. Highlighting the dangers of fossil fuels is a tangible way to engender public dissatisfaction with the current oil and gas paradigm ravaging the environment, the lawyer-cum-activist believes.

What’s more, the stickers are a cost effective means of educating the public on the realities of climate change. Each label—placed on top of the gas nozzles— will have a warning on the negative effects of excess carbon in the atmosphere.

The burning of fossil fuels for transportation is the second largest contributor of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, and is accelerating the process of climate change. Intervention is needed, yet top decision makers are not pushing hard enough for the change the world needs.

A label reads something like this: “WARNING use of this fuel product contributes to climate change, which may put up to 30% of species at a likely risk of extinction.” Statements such as these are meant to make the average gas user uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the product they are consuming.

Shirkey’s proposed solution is simple, and one that he believes will help catalyze a social environment favourable to reform. If the social will for change is strong enough, there will be no option but to accelerate research and development in the auto industry in order to reach a sustainable, environmentally friendly solution.

Canada was the first country to implement the Surgeon General’s health warnings on cigarette packets in 2001, a position supported by the World Health Organization. Will Canada be the first to adopt similar labels warning gas users of the detrimental effects their actions have on the world’s health? Shirkey’s plan is already in motion with a number of municipalities jumping on board as early adopters. You can already find the stickers on gas pumps throughout Oakville, Guelph, and Waterloo, Ontario. While on the West Coast, North Vancouver became the first municipality to pass the labels into law. Each adopter marks a “win” for Our Horizon and a small step towards reversing the impact of climate change.

Do you support the campaign? Find out how you can advocate for climate change warnings on gas pumps in your community, or simply make a donation to support the cause by visiting the Our Horizon website

SEE Change intern Samantha Scalise is a recent graduate of McGill University’s international development program. Focusing on culture and society she hopes to use her degree to promote positive social change locally and globally.

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