Tomorrow, 1st January 2011 (1111), the Penang State Government will launch the "no plastic everyday" policy.
The model which the experts have promoted for environmental education is first, we create awareness. With awareness (i.e. knowledge) then a person will change his/her behaviour. Usually, that means you tell the people what is good and what is bad. And tell them we want them to be good.
Well, research has shown that knowledge and awareness often (most of the time) do not lead to any transformation. Life goes on as before.
The new thinking is "transformational learning" - learning which actually leads to a transformation in behaviour. What's the key? You just have to create the opportunities to reach that conclusion on their own steam. It has to be personal. There has to be ownership.
So, will laws and government policies have any effect? Yes, to a very large extent. If the World community did not come to an agreement and imposed restrictions on CFC emissions, we would have large hole in the Ozone layer above the Antartica. Now, the hole is healing and closing up. But we are still at loggerheads about CO2 emissions.
Yes, public policy must take the lead. Even if it is unpopular. Even if the opposing parties tease and challenge the policy. Governments must act for the good of the community at large.
Happy New Year. Stay healthy.