What’s Next?

I have always thought of sustainability as a way to restore the balance in nature, to either recreate what has been destroyed or to stop future depletion from happening. In my opinion, not everyone has a true understanding of what it sustainability means. I’ve heard many people connect sustainability as if it is simply to reduce, reuse and recycle, which that’s not a bad start but it is much more complex than that. What sustainability is has changed to our society in recent years, for a long time humans simply wasted and destroyed without thinking of the consequences. Today, more and more is being done to protect the Earth but is it enough? 

The question of are we going to be able to save the Earth is a wicked problem, this is one of the largest issues the human race faces today, without a definite answer. That is only one of potentially millions of problems that we face though, on a smaller scale a huge issue humans face are diseases that don’t effect everyone. Those issues would be considered as a tame problem as they may have a solution, such as vaccines. 

What is a wicked problem and what does it consist of? A wicked problem can be composed of six main characteristics that help define exactly what it is. The first is a vague problem which is typically the most difficult to resolve and even figure out exactly what, where and who the problem is actually effecting. A vague problem could be considered as the issue with pollution, pollution effects different countries and even cities differently all around the world. The issue with that is how do you control it, at that scale you are now dealing with not just one government system but multiple each with different methods and valuable concerns. The second is variable solutions, this is because it is either very difficult or impossible to identify just one solution. A good example of a variable solution is how in China they may believe a solution to pollution is for certain people not to drive a particular car everyday while that solution may work for them but the method may not even be thought of to work in the United States. These problems are subjective with only a lot of gray shades rather than a definitive right or wrong answer. The third characteristic is that solutions have no end point, that isn’t necessarily in the literal context as there may be a solution, but it it may not happen for say another 100 years. Which even then, the solution must evolve because times and conditions are always changing, think of how much just the United States has evolved over the last 100 years, we’ve done a lot of damage. The fourth characteristic is solutions pose irreversible effects, what seems to happen in most scenarios with a quick solution to a wicked problem is that it isn’t always thought out thoroughly. What I mean by that is how some may race to find a solution, such as GMOs, thinking that it is the best answer to the problem without giving it time to show the downfall of the solution, which ended up doing more harm than good. The fifth characteristic is solutions require unique approaches, this is basically stating how the same solution doesn’t always work as effectively as it might in others. I’d like to think of this one on a smaller scale than the rest because it can be compared to humans learning, all humans have unique personalities and not all of those personalities work or learn the same ways. For one student looking at pictures as a professors speaks about the topic maybe more beneficial for that student while another right next to them learns better from reading a book. The same philosophy may be applied to wicked problems, every problem and situation is unique with it’s own solution. The final characteristic is URGENT! No but really, we are dealing with mother nature for almost every wicked problem there is, many environmentalists refer to it as “paralysis by analysis” because you can’t wait forever for a solution to be answered. We only have so long before some of our valuable resources are gone, and then what?

The film the 11th hour was very thought provoking and interesting to me, it also got my blood boiling just enough, as many of the issues it spoke about are fairly controversial. I know it isn’t the only film like itself to address the issues we are creating as world consumers of practically everything. What shocked me the most about this film was how it truly showed how little our governmental system truly does, well in general really. I found it interesting how the filmmakers were able to get so many different views from leading scientists and environmentalists as well as politicians. It truly broke my heart seeing how little has been done to resolve these major problems. At this point they aren’t actually little issues they are full fledged major problems, wicked problems. Is it just our government not implementing change or is it other countries and leading corporations as well? Why isn’t there anyone enforcing a change, do people really not realize the effects that have and are being made? 

A good precedent on what could potentially happen to the world is what happened on Easter Island, of course that is a much smaller scale than the world but it is still very relevant. Why is it relevant? Well, when the island was first inhabited they had very limited resources as the island only had insects, trees, and was also on a volcano, there wasn’t any source of fresh water and the climate was brutal. All that could grow was sweet potatoes and chickens were the only animal they brought with them. Based on how they left the island in ruins, it is believed that they were actually very technologically advanced however, the groups and populations began to outgrow the resources so quickly that nature couldn’t keep up. This is where I believe it is relevant as the population on Earth has basically doubled from just fifty years ago and is continuing to grow. What happened on easter island was that they didn’t go look for other solutions to get supplies, they just used up all of there resources until they didn’t have any left. According to many scientists we are also going through our resources quicker than ever leaving the question of if we will have enough. 

This is all based on just a week of really looking at our current state in our world and what happens next. As the 11th hour touched on, this has been going on for years as President Nixon signed the Clean Air Act of 1970 but what has changed in 48 years? I would say not much as we are now facing even larger issues than ever with the growth of population and climate changes. The real question is what’s next, how do we bring it to the publics eye that change is needed if we want to restore the Earth so that the generations after us have a chance. 

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