Out of sight, out of mind is an easy solution and it’s typical, but just because it’s easy and common doesn’t make it the right solution. Often times, out of sight, out of mind pushes us further away from the right solutions, it pushes us away from innovation and changing our ways. Out of sight, out of mind creates comfort and complacency.
Consider our situation with trash. We are all generating trash on a daily basis, but we don’t really see it. We toss it in a trash can every week and someone comes to take it away. Once we toss it, we no longer have to look at it—we no longer have to think about it. Out of sight, out of mind. However, our trash is a continually growing problem. Not only is there not enough space to put all of the trash, but it is a serious environmental problem.
The things we’re creating that are constantly being thrown away very rarely have the ability to degrade and so they’ll be sitting there for hundreds of years. It’s horrifying to think that every piece of plastic created still remains on this Earth as plastic. As things accumulate and sit there, they drift off. They leave their designated mountain of trash and seek refuge in other ecosystems, most commonly our oceans.
As we fill our trash cans every week, the garbage trucks comes by to restore our ignorance. A problem once existed where we didn’t know how to handle trash, and so the easy solution was to take it out of sight and therefore out of mind. Why should we bother people with the burden of having to actually think about the results of their waste? Instead of developing an actual working and sustainable solution, we’ve resorted to an ‘ignorance is bliss’ kind of mindset where out of sight, out of mind is actually considered a solution.
It’s rumored that Gerry Lindgren, one of America’s best distance runners, once wrote to the city newspaper in Honolulu to complain about not receiving his plastic trash bags back. We’re already throwing so much plastic away, and then we insist on wrapping it all in another layer of plastic. It’s as if we need to go out of our way to harm the environment for the sake of not having to face the realities of our waste. What is out of sight may be out of mind, but it’s not out of consequence. Only so much can be swept under the rug before those that follow us will feel the repercussions.
This out of sight, out of mind mentality is poisonous. Why do we have so many deniers of climate change? Because those who deny climate change aren’t seeing the effects first hand nor are they willing to face the facts presented to them.
We currently have a broken system in which decisions of the past took on the out of sight, out of mind mentality which has tainted the perceptions of the public. I don’t believe the trash problem is necessarily a problem of the public despite our everyday contributions, but rather, I believe it’s a systematic problem. A problem in which we’ve been doomed to our own ignorance—a genuine lack of acknowledgment and understanding.
This is why cultivating the creative mind is so important, while our society is comfortable in their ignorance and keeping the actual problems out of sight, we need intelligent and creative people to be working on real, practical and sustainable solutions, or at the very least, bringing the issues to the attention of the public and those in power.
With intelligent and creative people in the picture, we can create an optimistic view of the future—one that is eco-friendly, sustainable, and ever evolving. First we must recognize that whatever we put out of sight, isn’t without consequence.
The way in which education is addressed will ultimately lead the front in creating this optimistic view of the future. Fortunately, on December 10th, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law. This is an extremely important step in changing the way we think and solve problems because we’re granting future generations equal opportunities for all students. The bill reduces the amount of standardized tests and high-stakes decision making, and gives educators more of a voice at federal, state, and local levels. Lastly, the introduction of the Arts into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum turning it into STEAM is equally as important to the future.
Just keep in mind, out of sight, out of mind is not a solution. Just because you can’t see the smoke doesn’t mean it won’t kill you (or even your grandchildren). If you haven’t already, read Thinking 500 Years Ahead, and read it again even if you have.