In order to achieve true environmental sustainability, the whole community needs to take action. We need to change our ways and our behaviors, and environment care and sustainability must become the social norm. Because, if only one person changes their behavior and no one else in the community does, then that person will be ridiculed and their actions will be deprecated. Voluntary behavior changes and changes to social norms can be achieved by increasing awareness efforts and working together with the community leaders.
When you raise awareness, people would realize that their actions could have consequences, and it could affect other people, other communities, and even cause long term damages. Once people understand this, they would want to change their ways voluntarily. But when we enforce laws and force them, people won’t change, because they don’t understand the reason why they are being forced to do something. An example is the law passed to ban plastic bags in New Delhi, India. However, this law has not made any effect on the number of plastic bags being used. People are still continuing to use plastic bags because they are not aware of the consequences. As a result there has been no reduction in plastics bags in New Delhi. This is the reason why we have to educate people and raise their awareness, because if they know the effects of their actions they would want to change their behaviors.
For changes to be accepted by the society, the grassroots level actions alone are not sufficient and we need to work together with the community leaders. When the leaders are supportive and shows importance for environmental sustainability then all the people will also feel confident that they are doing the right thing and move in that path. This will help make these changes become the social norm at a faster pace. Usually for changes to become social norm it could take several ages and generations too. We do not have that much time to experiment when it comes to caring for this planet, as we are in dire need for fast changes. A leader has a very powerful say in the direction for a community. So, grassroots level organizations and leaders must work together to bring fast changes that will be accepted by the community.
An example of a country were environmental sustainability has become the social norm is Costa Rica. Everyone cares for their environment, and it is expected from people to live sustainably. Being caring and responsible towards the environment is a part of their daily lives. We should all take a closer look at Costa Rica, and believe that it is indeed possible for environmental sustainability to become social norms in our country too.
About the Author:
Pavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)
Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html