Recognizing and Solving Wicked Problems

Before this class, I had no idea what sustainability was, and I had not given much thought to it. I knew it probably had something to do with the environment, but I still was not aware of its meaning. Now, I understand that it is the idea of avoiding running the earth dry of its resources, and that this is an extremely important term and idea in the preservation of the earth. In fact, it is the core definition of how we as the human race can contribute to keeping our planet alive and well. Without sustainability, earth and the human race could be extremely harmed or ultimately destroyed. The threats to the sustainability of the earth and to the human race are known as wicked problems, which some have been trying to solve for decades now. A wicked problem is a global problem that cannot be provided with a simple solution that once applied, will fix everything. It is extremely complex, and fairly unsolvable. When humans threaten the life of the earth, and we threaten to destroy ourselves as a result, we have created a threat to sustainability of the earth and the human race, which is a wicked problem.

A good example of this is what happened to the people of Easter Island hundreds of years ago. The people did not have a concept of sustainability, and when they ruthlessly consumed the resources off of an already-depleted island, they destroyed the economy of the island, as well as the majority of their own race. While they were advanced, industrious, and technological as much as their time period would allow, they ultimately destroyed themselves and the economy of the island by the rapidity and recklessness with which they consumed its resources. What happened to them is very real and likely, considering the turn that the modern American society has taken over the last century. With the industrial revolution, our world has become completely dependent on fossil fuels for energy, releasing waste into the atmosphere in many different forms, ultimately harming the earth we live on permanently. It is not only harming the earth, but us. People are contracting cancers and permanent mental and bodily illnesses. Floods, fires, hurricanes, storms, and draughts are destroying homes and towns. Oceans are being overfished, trees are being eliminated—the world is falling apart because of how we are consuming the earth’s resources. We have viewed the earth as a limitless source of energy wealth, when that is far from the truth. Its resources for us to use are limited, and we have to be careful that we use them wisely and take steps to not run out of them, giving back to the earth what it has given to us.

The problems that we have created within our economy as a result of this cannot be solved with simple solutions. There is no right or wrong answer to them, and they cannot be fixed one and of themselves. There are simply better or worse solutions, and each of them are tied together, and normally cannot be compartmentalized. Therefore, to solve them, we must employ very complex levels of thinking, and be willing to accept improvement, not always solid success.

In order for people to even begin to try to contribute to solving these wicked problems, however, they must have a paradigm that is aware of the problems and that is willing to contribute. Most people, such as myself, will not give much thought to such problems if they cannot directly experience the consequences. Also, what they have been taught might be the immediate opinion they adopt without giving much thought to it themselves, even if that is against the cause of improving the environment. While many paradigms of different people might be different on many different levels and concepts, if they can come together to agree that the preservation and improvement of the earth is important and necessary, they can work together to solve wicked problems of our generations. If we open our eyes enough to the world around us, and the paradigms and opinions of other people, we will be able to see the good in their side as well as ours, bringing us together to improve the overall status of the earth.

Using this knowledge, we can discuss wicked problems that are relevant to us, and talk wildly and realistically about how we can change and improve these problems. By putting our heads together, we can create realistic, and crazy, solutions for the problems we experience. However, someday, those crazy solutions might become possible or reality.

Therefore, it is extremely important that society is made aware of the harm it is causing, and the importance of opening their eyes to the idea of change. The natural human desire to preserve and nurture will guide most people to contribute to preserving our planet through using renewable energy resources, and we will be drawn closer together when we pursue the same goal of preserving it for future generations, one step at a time.

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