Awareness and education are not enough for the environment

March 23, 2018 by Joshua
in Awareness, Nature

Raising awareness and education are pathetic, impotent excuses for acting on the environment people hide behind.

I’ve seen people talking about their awareness of litter problems while obliviously holding coffee in single-use disposable cups. There are a lot of Enron environmentalists. You may be one.

A main problem with awareness is that people feel aware while they aren’t. They’re aware of what they know but ignorant of what the don’t.

When they start feeling aware, they stop changing their behavior and become complacent.

Peer-reviewed results

Two peer-reviewed journal articles document that

environmental self-identity played an ambiguous role in predicting actual environmental impacts. Instead, environmental impacts were best predicted by people’s income level. . . individuals with high pro-environmental self-identity . . . typically emphasize actions that have relatively small ecological benefits.

— From Good Intents, but Low Impacts: Diverging Importance of Motivational and Socioeconomic Determinants Explaining Pro-Environmental Behavior, Energy Use, and Carbon Footprint in the Journal of Environment and Behavior


no significant difference is found between the impacts of environmentally aware and environmentally unaware consumers, i.e. both ‘Brown’ and ‘Supergreen’ consumers consume approximately the same amount of energy and produce approximately the same amount of carbon emissions

— From Does pro-environmental behaviour affect carbon emissions? in Energy Policy

You can follow the links to see the experiments, but both involved over 1,000 people.

In other words

People identifying as environmental doesn’t lead to them acting to help the environment, at least in some situations.

If you believe you’re environmentally aware, these peer-reviewed results suggest you aren’t.

What to do instead

Instead of focusing on awareness and hoping it will make a difference, I recommend focusing on behavior. I recommend committing to a personal challenge on my podcast.

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