Imagine the world in 20 years. What state is it in, in your mind? Good? Bad? Futuristic? Depleted? Nonexistent? It’s hard to imagine what the world will be like in 20 years based on its current state and how it will be if we continue to brush off the fact that we are basically setting up our world to fail. Some people believe that we will pollute our world so much that it will not be livable in the next 10-15 years. Others believe that we can work together to create solutions to the world’s wicked problems like climate change and overpopulation and that we can create the best future for our world. These people have hope. Hope is having an optimistic state of mind and a positive outlook on life. If all people were to have hope for our future, do you think creating solutions would be easier? I think that if all people—the government, industry and citizens—were all on the same page and had hope for the future, we would easily resolve all wicked problems.
There have been multiple solutions proposed for certain wicked problems. Some believe that one solution is putting government policies in place that will help with environmental degradation. They think that the poor and environmental degradation are directly correlated but others disagree. One of the proposed policies is to give the poor, lower classes control over key environmental resources. In the article “Is Poverty Responsible for Global Environmental Degradation,” John Ambler discusses how giving the poor complete control over environmental resources like water or forests will decrease environmental degradation. Some feel that by doing this, the poor, lower classes will take better care of the resources. I agree with this because I know that whenever I have control/ownership of something, I want to take good care of it because it is something that is connected with my name. I want it to stay in the best condition because it is a part of me in a sense. If the poor, lower classes have a key resource “to their name,” they will want to take care of it because others will view it as a representation of those who control it. On the other hand, can I trust them to care for the resources? What if their standard of care is not the same as mine? Am I truly okay with putting others in charge of resources that are so important to our future? Not every policy is feasible or able to support every part of the world either. There are 195 countries in the world, and the location and resource base for each one can be very different. The same type of water control needed for the desert is not what is needed in the rainforest. And preserving trees in the Amazon may not need the same type of policy for preserving trees in the Middle East. This makes it hard to make just one policy/solution for environmental degradation when there are so many facets to it.
Another proposed solution to a wicked problem in the industry is LEED. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED was created to help buildings become green, which is the practice of creating buildings that are environmentally accountable and resource-effective throughout its life-cycle, from design to operation to deconstruction and everything in between. The article “Does the Market Work Better than Government at Transitioning to Sustainability” talks about how buildings account for about 60% of electricity consumption and that they contribute to pollution extensively. This is the reason it is important for buildings to go green. I think LEED is a great way to become more sustainable. If all buildings were green, we could possibly cut energy consumption and other problems in half. Buildings becoming green could even have first-hand effects on humans, such as better health. I wonder if many of our health problems today stem from unsustainable materials that we are unaware of the effects that they have? If so, going green could have a greater impact that we even know or understand.
In contrast to the positive effects, there are unfortunately also some negative aspects to it. LEED has become so expensive that it is hard for buildings to become certified, making the idea a moot point because very few may be able to afford it. Incentives such as reduced fees or other financial enticements could be offered, but with the incentives there could be perceived costs and builders could under-budget how much it will cost to make buildings green. This could result in building construction coming to a halt and creating more pollution and environmental degradation by having an unfinished building taking up space. If some of those buildings took the place of a former forest or ecosystem, it would lead to more wicked problems like deforestation. With LEED there are both positive and negative aspects, so it is hard to decide if it would be beneficial.
Another solution that has been proposed that we as citizens can do to move forward in a sustainable way is to disengage from consumerism. Much of our society centers their lives around the “stuff” we have. We, myself included, think the things we have defines who we are as a person. Many of us have grown up thinking that it is normal to go out and buy things just for the fun of it, even when we don’t really need it. Truthfully, we can survive with much less than what we think we need. Our habit of over-consumerism is negatively impacting the environment, like air pollution and overpopulating landfills. If we were to disengage in consumerism, it would decrease the pollution from production, shipment, usage and the disposal of products. I have never taken into account that not only do I really not need whatever it is that I am about to buy, but even the act of getting to the store to purchase it causes problems for the environment.
On the other hand, if we were to disengage for consumerism, would it cause more negative effects than positive ones? A society where people did not over-consumer could cause us to end up not being able to function properly. Many people have grown up thinking that it is normal to consume tremendously. If we were to stop over-consuming cold turkey, people would not know what to do and the normal functions of life might be messed up. Large numbers of employees might lose their jobs because they would no longer be needed. Adding to the unemployment rate could cause stress on our economy. I think it’s possible that we are unable to dig ourselves out of over-consumerism. We have built a world that relies on consumerism and if we were to stop, our society and everything in it would just not work.
There are a lot of proposed solutions to help our world move forward with sustainable practices, but there are both positive and negative aspects to each one. This makes it difficult to discover the perfect solution to each problem, resulting in them becoming wicked problems. Although it won’t be easy or quick, in my opinion, once the government, industry and citizens all become one with their ideas and have an “all hands on deck” mindset, we will be able to solve our world’s wicked problems.