Against Awareness, For Scale: Garbage is Infrastructure, Not Behavior by Max Liboiron

bart-pieThe Problem with Awareness

Are you aware that food is wasted in the United States? Are you aware that 40 percent of food is wasted in the United States? Chances are good that you are aware of the first issue: finishing what is on your plate has been a value in North America for generations. Given this long running morality of food waste in general, what does this poster and its statistic–which may well be new to you–do? How do awareness campaigns move towards change?

Despite its ubiquity as a campaign goal, awareness does very little to create change. It is possibly one of the most resource-intensive modes of action with the least payoff. Awareness is usually linked to individual behavior change as its mechanism for change: if the poster above manages to motivate you to go to, you’ll be asked to make a grocery list before you go to the store, become “storage savvy,” and get creative with your leftovers. Sociologists have been studying the relationship of awareness to behavior change for decades, and the results are in: the journey from awareness to behavior change is a long and arduous one, and few make it. Even for those who change their behavior, the scale of the change is often too small to impact the problem at hand.

In the following section, I’ll outline the problem with the awareness theory of social change, then I’ll outline other points of intervention that do the heavy lifting we require.

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