From clueless to passionate

Sitting in my orientation choosing classes I was forced to take a “wicked Problems” class. I didn’t ask questions and silently agreed to take the class in order to graduate with my degree. What I did not know at the time was that this class would force me to contemplate on underlying issues that most people in our world either refuse to think is a problem, or are completely oblivious to the issue. That Issue being a wicked problem. Before this class the word sustainability had no actual meaning to it. It was simply a word I heard every so often but I had never had a real connection with it. I never took the time to think about what it actually meant. Now, a week after the class the word “sustainability” has more meaning to it than it ever had before.

In our first week of class we watched a video titled the “11thHour”. I was not super excited about it mainly because we had to fill out a worksheet along with it. Though I was frantically working to fill out every space left on the worksheet, it posed questions that experts were answering as they talked. The video spoke on key ecological/environmental issues the world is facing today and I was shocked to hear some of the issues that otherwise I would have no clue are going on. One idea that I had always heard about but had never dived into the issue itself was global warming. The video discussed evidence that our icebergs are melting faster than ever, we are having more natural disasters, and more flooding than ever before. Not only is the Earth melting, we have been cutting down one of our prime sources for oxygen and a source that could help with flooding from natural disasters. Humans have been cutting down trees like crazy as a source for raw materials and for land. So how do we solve these problems? Is there a solution and how fast can we reach it?

Problems such as the ones above are known as “wicked problems” by scientist all over the globe. A wicked problem is a problem that can not simply be solved by one scientist or one solution. It is a complex problem that takes multiple expert brains. A solution could take years and years to come across and could take a lot of trial and error. A wicked problem withstands any tradition means of solving that typically come into play in the scientist usual means of solving. The issues with a wicked problem are plenty, one being that there can be variable solutions. There is not just simply one because a solution a lot of time depends climate, culture, people and that is different everywhere. Another issue is that the solutions that scientist do some up with often have no endpoint. They think that they can see the light at the end of tunnel when in reality their solution causes another wicked problem or continues to make the wicked problem worse. Another issue that comes into play is the fact that most of these wicked problems are urgent so often scientist will rush to find a solution without fully thinking of the consequences.

A historic Island that draws parallels to our world today is called Easter Island. When the first settlers came, they came upon a land that was plentiful and they learned they could use their natural resources to eat and support their people. Eventually, the people became greedy with the Island and began to overpopulate with not enough raw material to support the people. People started dying of hunger and famine and eventually they ran out of raw materials and the Island became extinct. When looking at our world today, it is hard to not draw parallels to what is happening. We continue to use resources when we are well aware that they are running out. We also continue to pollute our air and cause damaging things to our environment without thinking about the consequences. If we are not careful as greedy human beings, we could possibly end up like Easter Island.

The depth to a “Wicked Problem” is more than we can fathom. This class has introduced me to a whole new world of problems that otherwise I would have no clue were going on. My first week of class has already taught me so much about what sustainability means and how that relates to a “Wicked Problem”.

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