Thinking Generations Ahead

Before starting this class, I had somewhat of an idea of what sustainability was, but I was also prepared for my knowledge on the subject to change pretty quickly once the class started. I was right. While I did know that sustainability involved sustaining what we have, I was informed of how it also means to maintain what we have without hurting the environment, as well as involving our environment, economic systems, and society. Along with sustainability, I was also introduced to a new term that I did not understand before this class, which is wicked problems. While I did understand the concept of a wicked problem, I was unaware of the exact definition and the multiple characteristics involved with one. Unlike a tame problem, a wicked problem is one that is seemingly “unsolvable,” because finding a solution almost seems impossible. It is one that is urgent, seems to have no end point, and usually the effects of the problem cannot be undone. I am so excited to be apart of this class because issues such as climate change and global warming, which classify as a wicked problem,  have always been so interesting to me.

To make sense of a wicked problem, I decided to focus on a problem that I see in the news frequently, which is climate change. Climate change is a topic that almost no one has a solution for, the problem is hard to pinpoint and finding a way to solve it seems impossible. On top of that, it is an urgent problem that needs to be solved, but many believe that it’s already too late to fix the issue. This is a prime example of the characteristics that make a problem a wicked one. Just like Easter Island, we as a society are dependent on our environment and its resources. We are nothing without our natural resources, yet our demand for them is high and we are selfish with our usage of them. If we cannot find a solution to this wicked problem, all of Earth could one day follow in the footsteps of Easter Island.

Another large problem that we are faced with is ways to become more sustainable in our everyday lives. Growing up, this was never taught to me in elementary school or never seemed like it was a problem. However, today I am reminded almost everyday about how we as a society need to become less wasteful. Why have we not been told this our entire lives? Just like Paul Gilding brought up in his talk, we have been warned of this for over fifty years, and we have the science to prove it, so why have we not been taking action? Our Earth is full, and most of our approaches to this problem is unsustainable and most of our plans to fix it are not possible. This is where my self-narrative needs to shift. Many have the mindset of “ if others around me aren’t taking any steps to help out why would mine make any difference?” This is the opposite of what everyone, including me should be thinking. Every bit we recycle or reuse is helping in some way. For example, many have begun to thrift for clothes, which means that products have a second or third life. This is also something that Andrew Dent talked about in his TedTalk. We need to use only what we need and change the way we think, and thrifting is just one step in the right direction. However, some people have been living sustainable for generations, like the Native Americans. I was so inspired to learn about how they have learned how to sustain themselves and truly embody the idea. One point that I believe was SO important was that they “think generations ahead.” After hearing this, it really made me think of my own carbon footprint that I alone will leave on Earth. Everyday I hope I can strive to become a more sustainable, eco-friendly person so that I can leave the planet for generations and generations behind me to live on. Each one of us should do the smallest steps, like not using a straw or picking up trash when we see it outside. However, I hope that throughout the remainder of this course I will be able to go more in depth of these wicked problems that we are faced with and hopefully gain insight on how we as a society can reverse the effects. While I only take small steps to solve the problem, I hope we as a class can learn new and inventive ways to get us and others motivated to help solve these wicked problems that matter the most.

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