Wicked Problems Blog 1

Sustainability is a term that I have heard for a large portion of my life, but it hasn’t truly impacted me until I came to college. Whenever I was younger, I remember celebrating Earth Day and the term “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but that was the extent of sustainability to me. Once I was living on my own and receiving a higher education, I began to realize that sustainability is something that is something that is going to be crucial to the rest of my life. I believe that this term is constantly changing over time because we are becoming more and more aware as a society that being sustainable is not just a decision, but that its a lifestyle. Sustainability is a lifestyle that can help further humanity.

A wicked problem is an impossible problem to solve because it seems incomplete or too contradictory to solve. A tame problem is a problem in which someone can solve it if they just use the right algorithm. Wicked problems are a lot trickier than tame problems because the more that someone attempts to solve the wicked problem; the more the problem actually reveals itself to them. The problem itself isn’t completely unveiled at the beginning when it is wicked.

There are six defining characteristics of wicked problems that seem to break down what they truly are. The first of these is that there are vague problem definitions. This means that there are multiple or diverse stakeholders that are involved in the process. Not everyone that is trying to solve the wicked problem is going to agree, which can be an issue or a blessing because of the many different viewpoints. The second characteristic is the variable solutions. This means that there is not one definite solution for the problem.  Since not everyone will agree, the problem can be seen as resolved by some and not resolved by others. Solutions to wicked problems are completely subjective and there are tons of gray areas. The third characteristic is that the solutions have no end point. Simply put, this means that the end is never in sight and once a solution is implemented, new problems typically arise. The fourth characteristic is that solutions pose irreversible effects. The effectiveness of a solution cannot be verified prior to implementation. The fifth characteristic is that solutions require unique approaches. Every situation is distinct and because of the different cultures and environments involved, a solution will vary depending on all the people attempting to solve. The final and sixth characteristic about wicked problems is that they are urgent. Failure to act will result in permanent harm. Solutions must be pursued prior to a full understanding of the problem because if they aren’t, more harm could come.

From reading the Easter Island paper, I was able to see a lot of similarities between their situation and our current state. For one, we both are causing deforestation. They used the wood to create canoes, shelters, and as transportation for their religious Easter island heads. Without realizing it, they had used the forests that had kept the island alive and flourishing, leaving them with a deserted landscape. Similarly, today we are increasing our deforestation all over the earth. As mentioned in the eleventh hour video, we have gone from having large parts of each continent covered with forests, to a low percentage of only 31% of the earth’s surface remaining. Another similarity between the Easter Island people and people today is that we both don’t realize how our actions are increasingly effecting our livelihood. It was too late once the people that lived on Easter Island realized what they were doing to their home, and the people suffered greatly because of that. Today, we are also aware of how our earth is consistently deteriorating; yet we aren’t able to comprehend it. We, just like the Easter Island people, have many different opinions and ideas about what is happening. Yet, we haven’t figured out a solution to this incredibly wicked problem

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