The city of Boulder, CO is superlative in many ways: It is one of the most educated, most affluent, most liberal and most environmentally conscious cities around. According to an article in a recent Wall Street Journal, though, Boulder is having a tough time converting its citizens' tree-hugging attitudes into meaningful actions.
Thus exposed is a fundamental aspect of human nature. Whatever we may say we like, People Hate Change. It's one thing to adopt a self-flattering pose to impress a pollster or to cop a public image, but quite another voluntarily to sacrifice money, time or convenience for a nebulous collective benefit.
"What we've found is that for the vast majority of people, it's exceedingly difficult to get them to do much of anything," says Kevin Doran, a senior research fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder. ...
Take George Karakehian. He considers himself quite green: He drives a hybrid, recycles, uses energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. But he refuses to practice the most basic of conservation measures: Shutting the doors to his downtown art gallery when his heating or air conditioning is running.
Mr. Karakehian knows he's wasting energy. He doesn't care.
"I'm old-school," Mr. Karakehian says. "I've always been taught that an open door is the way to invite people in."
Going green is kind of like public transit - people say they're all for it, when in reality, they're all for it -- for the other guy.
Boulder subsidizes residential energy audits which cost homeowners $200, but even at that price there have been few takers. The city has programs to replace incandescent bulbs with curly, mercury-laden compact fluorescent bulbs, and has swapped out 3,700 strings of incandescent Christmas lights with LED counterparts.
Still, the public has been slow to change its energy use habits in meaningful ways.
But, never fear, as long as there's a megalomaniacal progressive politician in power.
City officials are frustrated—and contemplating more forceful steps.
The City Council will soon consider mandating energy-efficiency upgrades to many apartments and businesses. The proposals under review would be among the most aggressive in the nation, requiring up to $4,000 a rental unit in new appliances, windows and other improvements. Owners of commercial property could face far larger tabs.
Which has spawned, in turn, a "conservative" backlash:
[T]here are signs Boulder's efforts are starting to lose favor. Voters county-wide last fall rejected a measure that would have doubled a public fund set up to give homeowners low-interest loans for efficiency upgrades, such as a new furnace.
In the same November election, city voters elected to the council several newcomers eager to moderate Boulder's aggressive environmentalism.
Among the newly elected: Mr. Karakehian, the gallery owner who insists on keeping his front door open. He is concerned about the city mandating conservation and says his constituents agree.
See also last week's entry, This is the Gaian Worker's Paradise of Cambridge. Welcome..
Cross-posted at VladEnBlog.