There is often a debate on “What can be done” when it comes to solving problems. Some people call on government actions to encourage or require an across the board change of behavior to fix the problem. Others will say that education is the answer. That people will do the right thing if they understand the problem – that all we have to do is provide everyone with the facts.
Well as it turns out from many decades of trying both of these options, the answer lies somewhere in between these two theories. This applies to the impacts from most of our behaviors including environmental, health, economic, and social issues.
First of all it is hard to “educate everyone”. Even if we got all the information out there, there will still be some people who won’t believe it, or understand it, or act on it, or accept that changing their behavior will make a difference. Changing behaviors is very difficult even for those people who believe strongly about a topic. The data suggests it takes multiple “ah ha moments” and peer pressure before most of us will actually develop the discipline to change behavior. The research data suggests it is unlikely that education alone is the answer. Some form of requirement or regulation is almost always necessary.
What often happens is that education is the first step. This requires repeated “touches” so that once the early adopters get it, they actually start acting in a different way. As the number of converts grows, their influence grows as well, and with time legislation is passed that encourages, incentivizes, or requires everyone to change their habits.
Take-a-way: Keep up the good work on all fronts from educational efforts to legislative action. It is all needed.