I’m going to start off by telling you a little bit about me, and maybe the reason behind the way I think. As I like to tell people, I was raised in a tall tower away from any sort of reality. I wasn’t truly kept fifty feet above the earth, but rather in my suburban room with parents that kept me away from any truth of the outside world. My parents are what I deem “helicopter parents.” This meaning that they hover over everything I do and wouldn’t let me think or do anything by myself. While I’m grateful for my parents in a lot of ways, it just forced me to form my own opinions at an older age. My point in telling you this, is that I’m still figuring out my views and opinions on various problems that face our society, and Wicked Problems is going to help me figure out how I truly feel about them.
This week in Wicked Problems our main topic was deforestation. We talked about other things such as climate change, pollution, and a majority of things that will surely spark a political debate at the thanksgiving dinner table. I will mainly focus on deforestation, because I feel that it is an overarching problem that might be able to solve or at least halt some of the other things that we discussed this week. For example, trees/plants create oxygen and clean the air, this is a proven fact. If we are polluting the air by being a more industrialized society and we are also cutting down trees, we are doomed to be breathing black air into our lungs. My main view is that we may not need to cut down on our industrialization if we plant more trees. Of course this could be completely wrong; however, I were supreme overlord of the earth, this is the solution that I would try first.
Deforestation is a rather heavy problem in our society today. What I didn’t know was that, deforestation isn’t a just a new problem, it has been a part of societies for centuries now; however, it is happening on a larger scale today. We read an article for this class over Easter Island and why their civilization didn’t last. The main reason was because of deforestation. They didn’t ration their resources and plant trees after they cut them down, so when their culture, that was oh so heavily dependent upon these trees for not only food/shelter/ but their moving statues, collapsed, no one was truly shocked. Looking on this now we all seem to say things like “well stop building the statues,” or “plant more trees,” or even “find a new island,” and that would have been the most rational thing to do, so why didn’t they?
That’s what I find myself asking over and over. “Why didn’t they… plant more trees? Why didn’t they… find other ways of moving those hallowed statues? Why didn’t they… just stop making the statues? Why didn’t they… find different ways of doing things in general? Why didn’t they… just leave and go to a new island? I mean, I know they can. They got to Easter Island somehow?” Honestly the thing that gets me the most is why they didn’t plant more trees. I think there was a lack in communication or something when it came to this island. The way I imagine Easter Island is kind of like the movie The Lorax. They start off with a lush landscape and a few trees get cut down, and by the end there are no more trees and all of the wildlife is gone as well, not that Easter Island had a lot of wildlife to begin with… If I’m being honest the idea that there were maybe ten trees left on the entire island and no one thought “Dude, maybe we should plant more of these since our culture is so dependent upon trees,” is what makes me question this culture the most. And of course after all of the trees were gone instead of just leaving and being like “We had a good run Easter Island, thanks for all of the memories,” the natives resorted to barbarian ways of life such as cannibalism. Why didn’t they leave instead of eat their friends? I feel like there were so many things that they could’ve done, but they didn’t. Hopefully, before we run out of trees in today’s society, someone can think of a few good ideas on how to reverse the effects of deforestation.
Looking at the world today and knowing how Easter Island ended up, I think we have a few more ideas than they did back then. I think that one way we could solve deforestation in America is with national parks. National parks such as Yellowstone are host to hundreds of species of plants and animals and stretch miles across the United States and I think if the government played a part in regulating a few more massive ones that would help cut deforestation. I feel like simple things like national parks or planting two trees for every one that is cut down would be so beneficial for our society in stopping deforestation.
All of these problems that we talked about are wicked in the sense that there isn’t just one easy answer to them. For starters, we’re dealing with different countries, cultures and even religions that don’t necessarily think the highest of the United States. We tend to be know it all’s when it comes to problems that face the world and the truth of the matter is we only see it one way, our way. Different cultures hold higher values to things than we do. In the case of Easter Island, their culture placed the statues at the top of the totem pole which is why when it came to the deforestation of the island and they could move these statues anymore did it become apparent that maybe cutting down all of the trees wasn’t the way to go. That being said we don’t know what other cultures place value on. So how can we tell someone to change their beliefs and practices in order to possibly save the planet?
We know that history only repeats itself. I would hate to see the human race go extinct when planting trees is all that it takes to stop deforestation. We know these things now. We have the Easter Islanders to prove that a culture can go extinct when things such as deforestation happen, so if we know these thing then we should be trying our best to stop them. I think the problems we talked about in Wicked Problems have begun to shape the way we interact with one another and if we don’t fix them quickly we will only end up like the natives of Easter Island. I’m excited to learn more about wicked problems that our society faces and seeing how I can make an impact, whether it be small or large, I’m excited start my sustainability journey.