Meet the Victoria environmentalist behind those controversial car-shaming handbills

Meet the Victoria environmentalist behind those controversial car-shaming handbills

‘I want to shock people, give them that burning feeling in their stomach,’ says advocate

The person who has been anonymously placing car-shaming handbills on vehicles in Oak Bay has come forward.

David Schwab confirmed to the Oak Bay News that the handbills left area cars earlier this month reading “Yes this is a crisis, you are the problem,” are his work.

He said he’s leaving them because others aren’t moving fast enough in the face of climate change, and came forward to share a message.

“I do want to shock people, give them that burning feeling in their stomach, that when they pick it up and read it, they know they’re not doing the right thing and feel terribly embarrassed for it,” Schwab said.

However, many might be surprised to know Schwab has specific criteria that he uses. Not every car is a target. Part of that is why his first visits were to Oak Bay.

READ MORE: Victoria drivers wake up to handbills saying ‘Your vehicle burns a lot of fuel’

“People say I don’t know anything about the car owners but that’s not true. I know they can afford a [luxury] car.”

Before placing a handbill Schwab asks himself if the car costs more than $10,000, he said.

“I’m not targeting poor people. Rich people can adapt. If you have an old beater, it might be a bad emitter. But they might have a really hard time selling and replacing it, whereas people who can afford it [have no excuse].”

The second question is: “Could this car be a Toyota Prius instead?”

Most SUVs fall in the category that it could be a Prius, or if it’s a truck, Schwab asks if it could be a four-cylinder Ford Ranger instead, he said. Not everyone can afford a Prius or an electric vehicle but likely could afford a small car.

On his first night out, the weekend of Nov. 9, the 25-year-old Victoria resident distributed 100 of the provocative handbills. One excerpt on the backside of the handbill reads “You might as well tell [your kids, nieces, nephews] to their face that you hate them, after all, you are helping to deprive them of food security, biodiversity, among other critical things.”

It ends with “Do your best. Anything else isn’t good enough.”

The response was massive.

READ ALSO: Drivers are ‘ICE’-ing electric car charging spots in Greater Victoria

While some bristle at the messaging of Schwab’s handbill, a November report by the International Energy Agency shows that the worldwide growth in SUV sales (the number of SUVs on the road grew from 35 million to 200 million) over the past decade has effectively negated the impact of electric vehicles to date. It’s due to the heavy size, and powerful engines that SUVs and excessive pickup trucks are built with.

Regardless, many who saw Schwab’s handouts were offended and took to Facebook to vent. Others were less offended. Some disagreed with the form of message but agreed with the sense of urgency. Others still, decided to spew vitriol towards Schwab despite not being targeted.

Of the many comments online are some from Oak Bay’s Dylan Kelk, who recently created a Facebook page called Oak Bay Climate Force.

Kelk shared a sentiment with many climate action advocates that Schwab’s approach is too polarizing to foster the right discussion.

“While I empathize with the fear and anger [he] must have felt, I don’t condone what [he] did,” Kelk said. “It’s unequivocally true that our community, and the world in general, still isn’t doing enough despite the progress we’ve made, and we absolutely must hold ourselves and others accountable for that. But if we’re going to do so without any empathy, respect, or knowledge of what a person might already be doing we risk alienating potential allies.”

So far, Schwab is on his third reprint of the handbills. His second print had a typo and he softened the wording on the first handbill.

“It said, ‘I suggest you go home and tell your kids you hate them’,” but that was too harsh, he said. Instead, it effectively reads, “You might as well go home and tell your kids you hate them.”

He does expect an additional backlash and that it will get personal when people see his name.

“The initial reaction was pretty much what I expected.”

Born to a pair of West Coast parents, Schwab was raised on the East Coast. They are scientists, and the scientific evidence of global warming was drilled into him as a kid. It’s in his DNA.

He moved here at 18 with hopes of finding a Utopian Left Coast where people scoffed at commuting to hockey and soccer practice in a Ford 150.

He was wrong.

“I thought the West Coast would be better. I came here thinking people would have the right attitude, that everyone here was going to pull together. When I got here, I realized there is a mix of people just like anywhere, but that there are people trying their hardest to combat climate change.”

It took Schwab a couple of years to get into a situation where he could bike everyday, including work. He avoids plastic like the plague, and has now made it normal to live a life with a lower footprint than most.

It wasn’t enough, he realized.

“I’m trying, but it’s only a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed out there, so I decided to get my message out, ” Schwab said. “Each one of us has a role to play. Personal responsibility is a huge thing. We all need to take it up and all need to try our hardest.

“When I see people not doing that it gets me emotional.

“Kids in school are learning about climate change and when they get picked up, it’s with their parent in a Land Rover. That’s a slap in the face, isn’t it?,” Schwab said.

reporter@oakbaynews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The trustees of the Spences Bridge Improvement District argue that one reason the EV charging station (l) should be moved is because it could compromise emergency response from the nearby fire hall. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Time is running out for Spences Bridge EV charging station

Lease for the site runs out at the end of January and no new agreement has been reached

Areas in blue show properties in Cache Creek zoned C1, which the village’s Cannabis Regulatory Framework proposes as properties where retail cannabis stores could be sited. The area outlined with a dotted orange line shows a 200 metre buffer zone around Cache Creek Elementary School, within which no retail cannabis establishments could operate. (Photo credit: Village of Cache Creek)
Cache Creek council gets more input on cannabis regulations

Council considers options to regulate retail cannabis sales and production within the village

(from l) Gordon and Lee Berdan in front of the framed ensign from HMCS Sudbury which they recently presented to the Ashcroft Legion. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Ashcroft Legion continues helping community in tough times

Branch now also displays a recently donated artifact from WW II corvette HMCS Sudbury

Odours emanating from the former Wander Inn restaurant in Cache Creek, which now houses a cannabis grow op, has spurred a petition asking for more regulations around the production of cannabis for personal medical use. (Photo credit: <em>Journa</em>l files)
Cache Creek council supports petition seeking cannabis regulation

Petition asks for reform to licensing, oversight of production of cannabis for personal medical use

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

Interior Health has declared the Cariboo Chilcotin a community cluster. (Angie Mindus photo)
Interior Health declares Cariboo Chilcotin region a COVID-19 cluster, 215 cases since Jan. 1

Most cases are related to transmission at social events and gatherings in Williams Lake

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Vernon's Noric House long-term care facility is dealing with an influenza outbreak amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (File photo)
Two more deaths at Vernon care home

Noric House case numbers remain steady, but death toll rises

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Most Read