Throughout the past 18 months, the environment has seen a resurgence in the hearts and minds of voters as the reality of global warming hits home. However, on the heels of chronic inaction, governments and environmentalists are now riding a fine line towards voter backlash.
Public sentiment has been punctuated by two factors: rising environmental concern and a desire for leadership and solutions. In the face of rising greenhouse gases and a complete lack of accountability from industry, the public have been seeking action from elected officials - action that will make a seriously impact on emissions and begin to stop a looming environmental catastrophe.
Instead what we have seen is an utter unwillingness and inability on the part of both elected officials and environmental campaigners to hold industry to account, while all responsibility for the stewardship of nature is dropped onto the lap of the individual citizen. This trend is threatening to squander a rising environmental concern and alienate the people who genuinely want to be part of the solution.
Skeptical? Read on. In the past weeks policies have come forward that take a hard line on leaf blowers and lawn mowers, backpackers are being told how to go carbon neutral, and air travel, which accounts for just 3% of world's emissions, has been inexplicably cornered as a pariah in the fight against greenhouse gases. All of these actions have a single result. They guilt, restrict and constrain the behaviour of you and I, the citizens who genuinely want environmental solutions, while giving a free pass to the fossil fuel and automotive industries who are the real source of global warming.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives are boasting a war chest that is growing ten times as fast as the Liberals. When an election does come, this will be money targeted directly at moving public opinion away from the environment and in discrediting opposition leaders who choose to support it.
Both governments and environmentalists need to refocus quickly by increasing pressure on industry and calling for solutions that will genuinely solve the global warming problem. The public wants action and they are willing to do their part, but they will not be content to shoulder the work load for shirking corporations pulling in unprecedented profits on the wings of soaring greenhouse gas emissions.