Originally I thought sustainability was just a way to design using the least amount of resources. Now, I realize that sustainability is about designing in a way that helps to maintain the world we live in, if not help it to flourish again. I used to think it was a choice, a luxury. I now realize that it is the only option. Total sustainability is the only way to begin the journey to undoing all of the harm we have already caused our planet. This poses as a wicked problem because in order to achieve total sustainability we would need to immediately purge fossil fuels from daily use, abandon all production of plastics and rubbers, use solar, wind, and water power as source for energy, immediately go vegetarian if not vegan, and build our cities with foundations in biophillic design. Not only does this idea completely tank our economy, but the economies of the entire world. Not to mention that this amount of extreme change in our daily lives could cause many civil wars. Banning things like meat sales and production of plastics encourages a increase in black market sales. And that’s just the very beginning of a whole other list of uh-oh’s we will encounter along the way.
Wicked problems continue to cause harm because of six reasons. First, the specific problem has a vague definition, because it affects so many different people and has a variety of stakeholders. Since the problem definition is vague, so is the solution; no one can agree on the best solution so we choose none at all. Even if we were to consider the solutions given, they often have no endpoint; once one solution is implemented another arises. These solutions also pose irreversible effects since the effectiveness of said solution can not be accurately verified prior to being enacted. This means that all solutions will require a unique approach to ensure effectiveness in all places for all people (which is kind of impossible). The scariest part of all of this is not that we will never be able to come to a conclusion but rather that a failure to act will result in permanent damage.
Everyone loves to live in their own ignorant bliss. Watching the 11th hour makes that impossible. The human world that we have created rests its big carbon footprint right over top of the beautiful planet we call resources. How long will our pride allow us to stay seated in a burning living room? What we are doing to planet Earth can be seen on a small scale when looking into the history of the Easter Islands. The small island was made barren by large scale deforestation and over use of natural resources. And for what? A contest over who could make the biggest sculpture. The development of an ego is what separated us from nature in the beginning. If we continue to allow this separation, it will also be our undoing.