April 15, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • 12:30 AM EST
"This is a call to action for Connecticut Citizens," the flyer breathlessly read. "Our goal will be to 'Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050.'"
Saturday afternoon, about 200 hardy souls dedicated to that goal of planetary preservation gathered at the northeast corner of Bushnell Park for a Step It Up rally, one of almost a dozen across Connecticut and one of 1,400 across the country.
Considering that there were Step It Up events in Enfield, New Hartford, and Portland, the turnout for Hartford was good. Participants could learn about environmental preservation, clean energy, or buy compact flourescent lightbulbs for $1 apiece.
As I watched the woman sell the lightbulbs seemingly by the case, I pondered the theory of diffusion of innovation, which posits that social movements occur in five phases: innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%).
And I wondered, with regards to clean energy and global warming, where are we on the chart?
The event ran from noon to four, and when I first arrived at about 1:15 pm, I saw familiar faces, the standard folks for the progressive rallies, whether it is Hope Out Loud or a Ralph Nader speech. These would be the innovators.
The people manning the 20 or so tables set the standard for Connecticut's clean energy community. The usual suspects sold their innovations, like Gus Kellogg of Greenleaf Biofuels, Judi Freidman of PACE, and Bob Maddox of Sterling Planet. The Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance had a booth, too.
I lingered for a while, listening to various speeches, new faces started to appear. I bumped into one Thornton for Governor volunteer who had never been to such an event before. He said he wasn't just going to mark these gatherings on his calendar anymore. He said he wanted to show up, and his girlfriend joined him, as well.
Is he an early adopter or early majority? Based on the fact that Thornton for Governor received less than one percent of the vote, I fear we're still in the innovation phase (2.5%) of green culture, which I would define as the embracing of a reduced carbon lifestyle and its attendant political philosophy.
Since none of this is by any means scientific, I have to go by my own observational skills. So I hazard a guess that we're moving towards early adoption. I could argue that the very existence of the Step It Up rallies is an attempt by the innovators to move expand their network to early adopters.
If I guage the progress towards green culture by the amount of people on bicycles, I think we're doing well. Having been in bicycle advocacy in Connecticut for the better part of a decade, I feel pretty confident in my ability to assess the bicycle riding population. I saw new bicycles and more bicycles than one might catch normally at such a rally at the Park. I think that population is growing.
By the boxes of bulbs sold, it appeared as if every household there was buying into that innovation. I purchased three for $3. I just had a compact flourescent burn out in my kitchen, and I still have a straggler of a lamp that lacks a CF bulb. And now I have a spare, too.
The first ones I bought years ago cost $10 or more. With the price dropping, we should see more and more people embracing that simple switch, especially because it saves almost $50 in electricity (and countless pounds of carbon) over the course of the bulb's life.
Still, I heard one woman wondering if the new bulb would affect her cats and her asthma. This is why these fairs are so important. They educate better than the mass media can, because in the diffusion of innovation theory, social change happens through word of mouth.
With so many new faces, from far flung places like New London, I left feeling upbeat. Usually, I depart rallies depressed, wondering why I even bothered, because it's always the same people. Maybe it was the chocolate cake my friends gave me (who haven't been to such a rally in Hartford before either), but I left that one feeling like, hey, I think we're gaining towards early adoption here.
If global warming is real, we really don't have a choice, though.