first, tell me how to make toast

Sustainability has often been defined as how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive. However, in the 21st century, the definition goes far beyond these narrow parameters. Today, it refers to the need to develop the sustainable models necessary for both the human race and planet earth to survive. Sustainability is a balancing act that meets the needs of the present without compromising the well-being of future generations. Sustainability is founded on the respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace.
The old models of consumption and industrialization will not support the worlds growing population. If we want to continue to have water, materials and natural resources needed to thrive, a new approach to living is called for. We will have to re-examine our policies on environmental protection, social responsibility, and economic practice. These are classic examples of wicked problems being that they are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The problem is so complex that it has no determinable stopping point. These are not tame or straightforward problems that face a common enemy or have a sequential nature in solving them.
A fundamental misunderstanding is that we are connected to nature, and we are not separate from all other life forms. The human race has a thinking disorder, and we are living in disharmony with the planet. During the steam engine and fossil fuel age nature was converted to a resource that embodied unlimited growth and expansion. This mindset is accelerating our disconnection with the planet. The human race invented the concept of a future yet selfishness, politics and economy have hindered our ability to see past the here and now. We are failing as biological community leaders and is aiding in the collapse of planet ecosystems. Where would we be today if we gave ecosystems rights instead of claiming them as property?
Easter Island is an excellent example of our possible future. What started out as a socially advanced and technologically sophisticated society ended up in a poverty-stricken and backward conditioned place. Easter Island is a striking example of the dependence of human societies on their environment and the consequences of irreversibly damaging the environment. While Easter island is small-scale compared to the entire planet, it draws parallels to our current state. While we are not forced to eat solely sweet potatoes and chicken, who’s to say we will never reach that point? We are currently in a death cycle where we are dependent on resource extraction, and our living systems are in a state of decline where not a single system is stable or improving. The same happened to Easter Island but in warped speed, because it was over a much smaller piece of land. Easter island did not have environmental protection, social responsibility, or economic practices in place to prevent the collapse of their society.
If we know these problems that caused their collapse, why wasn’t it easily prevented? Well, wicked problems are challenging to solve and have six characteristics to prove they cannot be solved using traditional scientific approaches. Wicked problems have vague problem definitions, variable solutions, solutions that have no endpoint, solutions that pose irreversible effects, solutions that require unique approaches and are urgent.
This reminds me of a TedTalk by Tom Wujec called Got a Wicked Problem? First, tell me how to Make Toast. In order for us to understand and solve complex problems, you need to look at how people make toast. So Tom asked hundreds of people to draw out how to make toast. The results help explain why wicked problems have vague problem definitions and variable solutions. Some people illustrated the process quite clearly, some revealed aspects of the process over others. Some were all about the toaster while others were all about the toast. Engineers focused on the mechanics; others focused on the people and their experiences or the supply chain of making toast.
My point is that geographic location, cultures, values, beliefs, norms, or governance regimes, and many other factors affect the viewpoint on the problem at hand. Even if there is a consensus on the problem definition, not everyone will agree on when the problem has been resolved.

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