The Silent Green Majority
Photo: Critical Mass protest in Budapest 2007, source: becherpig
Just dig these new public perception stats on renewable energy released by UK’s Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC):
- 77% said they supported renewable energy for providing our electricity, fuel and heat, with 26% strongly supporting. Just 4% opposed renewable energy.
- Perceptions of a range of renewable energy sources were mostly positive. Highest levels of support were found for solar (82%), off shore wind (73%) and wave and tidal (72%). On-shore wind had the highest level of opposition, though still only 12% opposed this, with 4% strongly opposing (compared with 66% supporting).
Also out this week was a survey that said, if someone was unsure whether to buy a house or not, the most popular single ‘extra’ that could persuade them was installed solar PV.
Jeepers. And all this despite the vast majority of UK newspapers running relentlessly negative stories about renewable energy in particular and the green movement in general. If you ever look at the comments section of any on-line green story, or the foaming and ranting in newspapers’ letters pages, you’d be forgiven for believing that the shift to green was incredibly unpopular with the general public. But as Machiavelli said:
“the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.”
There is, it appears, rather a sizeable silent green majority and the ranters and ravers are in actual fact a tiny if very vocal minority.
These statistics should give heart to all those in politics and business who want to push green harder. Here in the UK, only one of the three main party leaders, Deputy PM Nick Clegg, has made a major green speech while PM David Cameron and Opposition Leader Ed Miliband have merely paid lip service. This is incredible given that whopping 77:4 ratio of supporters to opponents of renewable energy – a clear vote winner for whoever pushes hardest at that open door.
Business leaders too should feel empowered. This appetite for a low carbon economy from the general public and, by extension, their employees and potential employees is fertile ground for innovation, new products and whole new business ventures. People want it – let’s supply it!
Having said that, I would warn against the statistics being seen as a carte blanche (carte verte?). Going green requires creative destruction – losing the high carbon, highly polluting parts of the economy and replacing them with greener equivalents. Such change produces uncertainty and may undermine confidence, eroding that public perception. The key as always is to ensure that the new product/process/system is much better in all respects than the old before phasing out the latter. I suspect that the 77% are asking for a shiny new low carbon economy, not a tatty old hair shirt.