Upon starting this course, I did not think of sustainability as anything “inter-generational.” I’m not sure what I thought about it prior to this course. The initial readings and class discussions have really opened my eyes to just how much trouble we’re actually in as a world. It seems that everything and anything we do in our daily lives is to the destruction and detriment of our planet. Every activity from opening a plastic tube of toothpaste, using a plastic toothbrush, driving our fossil-fueled car to work, to simply breathing, is having a devastating impact on our environment. I have learned what “wicked” problems are, and what “tame” problems are.
A wicked problem is a problem that evades resolution. It’s a problem with many factors and influences that seem altogether unsolvable. A wicked problem possesses a vagueness in defining the full scope of the problem itself, as well as in any solutions that may be options. Any solutions may also create more irreversible damages and have no end themselves. Any solutions require the utmost urgency, and require unique approaches. A good example I’ve noticed is in facing the horrifying problem of global warming. Several nations, in accordance with the Paris Climate Treaty, have agreed to plant certain volumes of trees in their nations in an effort to cleanse the atmosphere, provide sustainable agriculture, and create new jobs for their nations. India comes to mind, after planting sixty six million trees in one day. Pakistan does as well, after pledging to plant ten billion trees over the course of the next five years. All of these are excellent starts to solve the numerous problems surrounding global warming, but we must also stop producing and using fossil fuels. Entirely! This and other “wicked problems” are different from tame problems in that tame problems generally have a straightforward solution, even in the face of an enormous problem. The general population is mostly on board for how to combat a tame problem, such as a rampant disease that can be vaccinated against.
As far as The Eleventh Hour film, I found it entirely disturbing. Living here in Oklahoma, there is no shortage of people who will defend the fossil fuel industry left and right, and speak of it’s many benefits to our economy. These are usually the same short-sighted people that are only interested in the financial benefits to the economy, and not the drastic damages being done to the world. Not just to “the environment,” but to people all over the world, too. From our Activity One, I learned that there is no shortage of terrible issues facing our world today. Issues that we as a globe, have never completely faced before. The fact that they only appear to be getting worse is even more disturbing. What is the answer? Should we impose restrictions on our population’s growth? How could we do that, constitutionally and diplomatically? Is it enough to keep planting trees? How many trees will be enough? Is it enough to evolve our industry to focus on solar, wind, and hydropower as opposed to fossil fuels? What effects will that place on jobs and the overall economy? Our world leaders have no shortage of crises on their plates to contend with, but are they even doing anything about any of this? My gut tells me no, they’re not. Because the world over, as in America, corporate interests wield too much power over the governments. And those corporate interests benefit too much from the fossil fuel industry to ever dream of slowing down production. In relation to Easter Island, we’re going to keep chopping down trees, pumping for oil and gas, dumping pollution into the oceans, and destroying everything we’ve ever had until there is nothing left. Life will evolve, nature will continue, but it will undoubtedley look horrifyingly different than anything we should have on this planet. For the people of Easter Island, they kept consuming and destroying until there was nothing left. Their statues left in the quarries. I can’t help but wonder, were there citizens of this Easter Island world who sat back in sheer horror as they watched their home become an unrecognizable waste land? Or was everyone in agreement that the gods would do something to save them? I hope our societies become wise enough to protect what is ours, rather than exploit it to death.