One of the main drivers of early Ikkatsu Project programs was the idea that awareness needed to be raised about the issue of marine debris and plastic in the ocean. It’s sort of hard to imagine now, with all the attention that these problems have received in the past decade, but in 2012, there really weren’t that many stories about marine debris in the media and most people had never even heard the term, “microplastics.”
There’s not much question now that awareness is no longer the problem, at least not in the way it was back then. People have heard about the issues and many have taken action to change their habits and purchasing decisions accordingly. But many more have not, and a 2013 Yale University study might throw some light on why this is the case. (Although the study deals with the issue of light pollution, you can exchange that idea with the phrase, “marine plastics,” and the facts won’t change much.)
Different methods of non-recognition or unawareness that people use to ignore environmental issues were identified in the study, techniques that we humans use to avoid dealing with hard truths. Recognized unawareness is when a person suspects that pollution may have negative effects, but thinks there is not enough information to make an accurate determination; False awareness happens when a person believes that he or she has all the information that is accessible, even when that information is insufficient, outdated, or misunderstood; Deliberate unawareness describes people who do not find an environmental topic to be important, and therefore don’t seek out more information on the problem or even purposefully set aside facts that they do not feel obligated to accept; Concealed awareness is when a person purposefully omits information or is unable or unwilling to share it with others, something that is often motivated by financial issues or by an attempt to stay in good graces with others.
The question of why we don’t do what we know to be right even when we know what the consequences can entail is a fascinating look at what makes the human mind tick. It may turn out that the sticky environmental situation in which we find ourselves is as much a product of our thoughts as it is a commentary on our actions.