Does Sustainability really have a definition?
Wasn’t sustainability just about managing our resources in ways where they continue to support us indefinitely, or it is just something I thought what it meant, for instance, not depleting our groundwater resources so that the future generations have access to it as much as we do and do not face the consequences of sinking soil. Well. that may have been something that I knew and believed in until I got introduced to how just not environmentalism but, economic development and social equity also have roles to play where while achieving one, the other gets compromised. Probably, which is why there stands no universally accepted definition on what it means, and various views are present on how it can be achieved, making it a wicked problem.
As opposed to tame problems which have a well-defined and stable problem statement and a definite stopping point when the solution is reached, wicked problems have many interdependent factors making them seem impossible to solve. Their six main characteristics involve, vague problem definition as it becomes difficult to point out what the problem is due to the diversity in the multiple stakeholders that are involved. Then comes variable solutions since identifying one solution that would meet the requirements of all the stakeholders involved is difficult, solution has no end point due to the cascading effect where solving one solution, gives rise to other problems.
Fourth is the irreversible effects of the solution, since going for the trial and error approach, solutions having adverse effects would have a permanent effect on the world. Since the solution to the same problem would not work effectively for all people at all places, hence solutions need to have unique approaches. Lastly, wicked problems are urgent because failure to act at the right time could cause harm to humans and natural systems. It was the lack of urgent solutions faced by Easter Island as the over-exploitation of the natural resources (tree and soil) to attain development and taking no urgent steps to overcome that exploitation led to their debacle. The Easter Island example despite being tragic is useful to learn about the intimate relationship between environment and development, where development cannot occur independently of the environment that actually provides the resources and also assimilates pollution. The trade-off between two becomes inevitable if development conflicts with the need to protect the environment.
The lessons of environment protection learned from Easter island are further emphasized in the film, “11th hour”, where a variety of world’s experts tell how humanity has reached this point of convergence of environmental crisis while exploring manners which people can adopt to avert the global disaster. The film adequately outlines the current status of Earth’s health, the movement to revive it, and a basis for the education that is required to make necessary changes for a better and healthier planet. A lot of file footage is shown through the course of the film that is sometimes not properly discussed but does provide good visuals for the narration. Well, it does educate us, but it also leaves us with questions like, where do we go after we buy into the pending humanitarian disaster waiting to happen? Also, with the setting of the film, are enough people going to watch something that dramatic and serious, a need for humor was needed.
The same idea of dealing with environmental crisis is dealt with Andrew Dent in his TED talk, “to eliminate waste, we need to rediscover thrift”, where he says that there is no such thing as throwing away, rather everything you toss in the bin, they end up in ever-growing landfills, hence there is a need to rediscover thrift, an idea of using and reusing what you need so that the need to buy something new gets less. Each year humans drop about 1.3 billion tons of waste and that number will go if we do not embrace thrifting.
The TED talk along with the other videos and readings I saw and read respectively, has allowed me to look at the concept of sustainability from different angles, where before it was just about not depleting the resources entirely and that too was not something I was supposed to ensure but the higher authorities, I just had to use them properly. Now, I look at it as a serious issue which the world is dealing with every day and there need to be sufficient steps that need to be taken on all levels to bring about the desired results. Just like how in, “The Wildest Thing” exercise were made to think about the issues and the probable solutions which opened my mind to the environmental or social problems and what in my opinion could be the possible solutions for it. Thereby allowing me to step aside from all the problems of the world I have created for myself and actually be mindful about problems that actually exist in the world outside and need to be catered urgently.
The understandings also convinced me in taking my carbon footprint which I calculated on an online website, and it gave me a round off of 0.45 metric tons of CO2 emission which was for a week (Carbon Calculator). This only included my household and commute leaving aside other factors such as food, products, services etc. The result may not be very ideal since the exact figures of consumption in terms of kWh or therms wasn’t known. But this just tells how my everyday activities also contribute to the emission of carbon which could be controlled such as travelling less in cars/bikes and walking more, or even taking care of electricity usage.
Carbon Footprint Ltd. (n.d.). Carbon Calculator. Retrieved from https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx