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

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read