Are we hypocrites?

Photo by Calixtro Romias

San Joaquin County residents want a cleaner and greener transportation system, one which leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less sprawl, a new survey finds.

Eighty-one percent of us think reducing GHG emissions is either “important” or “very important.” That number is 64 percent when it comes to preserving farmland. We also strongly support expanding public transit along with bike lanes and pedestrian paths.

In short, we want to change our gas-guzzling, growth-inducing ways.


Wait a sec. In the same survey, 78 percent of us say it’s important or very important to “build new roadways to improve access or support new development.”

So we want all the new green stuff. But we also want more of the status quo.

Apparently we just want it all.

This reminds me of a smaller survey a few years ago, also done by the San Joaquin Council of Governments, in which respondents made it clear they favored development only within existing cities — no sprawl. Yet two-thirds of the same group professed a desire to live in single-family homes or even rural ranchettes (44 percent alone preferred ranchettes, which are pretty much the opposite of infill).

Are we shameless hypocrites? Do we respond to questions with the answers we think we should give, or the answers that we think the questioners want to hear, but when push comes to shove and it’s our own lives we’re talking about we don’t want to change?

I chatted with COG’s executive director, Andrew Chesley, about the latest findings on Friday. He seemed to give folks the benefit of the doubt.

“People know what they’re talking about,” he told me. “They know there is a connection between transportation and land use. They know we can do it better. They also recognize their own behavior is tough to change.”

They also recognize their own behavior is tough to change. We can talk about this stuff forever, and we can acknowledge the consequences of sprawl, but if people’s personal behavior and actions don’t change then can’t we expect more of the same?


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