The problem with awareness
This old but excellent Discard Studies post demonstrates how, in transforming choices for greater sustainability, our focus should be on infrastructures that produce waste etc or lock in unsustainable consumer choices further down the line. In contrast, our usual focus on making individuals ‘aware’ – despite its merits – depends on many steps, reaches a limited number of people and has to battle against those same infrastructures. “Focusing on these systems for change actually scales up to the scale of the problem.”
But this also reminded me of important insights into when awareness raising can help but gets frustrated. I was involved in climate change adaptation work focusing on how this often isn’t the necessary starting point for action, but actually emerges from our actions as we take them; and both actions and awareness are generated and reinforced through our associations with other people rather than as moments of individual commitment. In this ‘4 As’ approach, association, action and awareness join in a virtuous circle with agency — the sense that we’re doing something meaningful — within a reflective system. As the post says, “the way a problem is defined forecloses on the types of solutions that make sense” — including the problem of awareness.