The bystander effect is a theory that the more witnesses there are to a crime or a violent event, the less likely anyone is to intervene. Some people believe that the higher amounts of witnesses to an event inversely affects the probability that someone will help.
I could list gruesome and depressing stories of the bystander theory, but I think that every single reader can probably conjure one to mind. What I want to do is draw relation to the bystander affect and the current state of our ocean.
Depending on your news settings, you will notice varying amounts of articles and news about ocean pollution, the extinction of creatures, Fukushima radiation, shark fin soup, violence, sadness, and defeat. If you pay close enough attention, it’s a constant barrage of violent news, enough suffering to shut down a person, to prevent them from doing even the littlest effort to help.
So often I hear, why bother? The news is distributed over so many people, either scientists will fix it, or someone else will, or nobody can. They think throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, or walking past a piece of trash, or choosing to eat unsustainable seafood won’t matter. Somebody else will fix it, throw it away, somebody else will care.
There are five stages a bystander goes through:
- Notice the event
- Realize the emergency
- Assume a degree of responsibility
- Decide what can be done
- Act, or decide not to act.
So what can you do to counteract becoming just another bystander effect? First acknowledge that you are being a passive spectator, and then make a decision to act. If you are aware, you can determine the amount of action to take. Be it to pick up a piece of trash, to care about what you are reading, to learn more about what you read, or to put your money where your heart is (which is a form of action in itself, aiding others to act in your behalf).
The bottom line is, witnessing any bad situation puts you in some degree of responsibility.
This attitude can be applied to all the things you love. For me, it is the ocean. For you, it may the forest, your neighborhood, dogs, public transport, a farmers market, a local shop, a school. Don’t be a bystander, don’t assume someone will act; take an interest, and become more.