Looking Into the Eyes of Sustainability

If you would’ve asked me what the word sustainability meant and why it was important before last week I would’ve given you an answer that was a fragmented variant of reality. Previously, my idea of sustainability dealt with simply reusing materials or coming up with ways to sustain the resources we have available without a substantial amount of waste. Little did I know that while this is true, it was only the tip of the iceberg. As I looked more in depth at all factors contributing to sustainability I missed some vital and relevant information that I would later become informed of the first day in class. In order to continue our way of living in the present while ensuring future generations will have the the ability to access resources to meet their needs and aspirations, we must begin to alter our mindset on the importance of a sustainable environment before its condition becomes irreversible. I knew that we needed to act on this issue for our benefit as well as the environments but it has always been difficult to grasp onto the shocking reality of no return or recovery from our actions. If we choose to be mindful of our impact or carbon footprint as individuals or even on larger spectrum’s such as local communities or cities it may be possible to prevent a wicked problem. I had no idea what the term wicked problem meant until this class. In our discussion in class, I believe the number one answer was that it was a problem with no solution. The definition states that wicked problems, in contrast to tame problems, are complicated issues that occur and appear to have no definite endpoint or solution without the possibility of creating more issues with temporary solutions even though they may seem to be the best option at the time of action. These complex issues are also different in every society so when presented with a wicked problem there often isn’t one absolute solution that satisfies the needs of both the environment and the people within every area the issue impacts. Some of the other characteristics of wicked problems that I haven’t already mentioned involving solutions are urgency, the need for unique approaches, and that there may be irreversible effects. To go into further detail on some of these characteristics, wicked problems require a sense of urgency because if there is no action and the damage could be catastrophic to the inhabitants as well to the resources it provides their may be no solution. Additionally, when wicked problems require solutions that do not show promise until they are implemented it can damage the environment more than sustain it. It’s difficult to solve wicked problems so hopefully this movement will catch on so we can avoid ‘paralysis by analysis’ when it comes to potential complex issues.

In the TED talk by Andrew Dent which focuses on the importance of ‘thrifting’ which is the process of reducing, reusing, and recycling of materials instead of replacing them and creating more waste. There are many ways that he discusses how to implement thrifting into our own lives and the importance of it becoming a way of life in companies and individuals. He provided an alarming example of the waste that comes from demolishing buildings which ultimately takes up about 1/3 of the waste within landfills in the United States. When I think of thrifting I think of Goodwill, Salvation Army, and antique shops that attempt to reuse items and sell them at a discount for other consumers. Some ways that I have implemented thrifting into my own life is through recycling plastic, cans, and cardboard as well as utilizing companies as I discussed before for clothes, shoes, appliances, and other household items. I think as a society we could truly learn from the Native American perspective on sustainability so that we may adapt our current way of life to better our future. In the video about the Native American perspective, he considered sustainability to be too small of a term. Throughout the course of history they have developed a centralized mindset and way of life that has allowed them to flourish in their environment for many generations because they choose to have an intimate relationship with the earth. A specific example that he provided is the fact they wouldn’t pick every berry or flower or even pick from one location. This would allow them to be aware of the environment and become mindful of how their actions could reflect on their well-being and the other species and resources that allowed them to maintain such an amazing lifestyle. Unlike the Native Americans, the story of Easter Island is high in contrast. When they first settled on the island the land was able to support their way of life for a small amount of time until they became an advanced society with an ever-growing colonization of people, they didn’t bring any sort of species that could pull or do farm work so they resorted to other resources and human power. The ceremonial statues or heads that they carved in honor of the chiefs on the different clans required lots of time but it also required them to overuse the trees to move them across the island. For awhile it was okay, but eventually the land began to decline because of their strict and exclusive independence of the remote islands resources. The soil couldn’t support any new crops because of no fertilization from the lack of mammals, the ground began to erode because of deforestation, so they turned to other resources until they eventually ran out of resources forcing them into warfare, slavery, and cannibalism. I think that this story can be a lesson to our society today in that if we were to heavily continue using our resources without finding solutions for sustainability we could very well end up like the settlers of Easter Island. We should not wait until we create a wicked problem, we should not attempt to find other planets to inhabit, and we should not ignore what is right in front of us. Instead, we should embrace what we have and what we are able to sustain through being mindful like the Native Americans.

Throughout our lives we experience change because of events that take place before us. This is called our Self-Narrative which concerns our values, beliefs, and . A paradigm is the lens in which we see the world. Our carbon footprint has a bigger impact than we realize. We often don’t think of ourselves as the problem and instead wait for others to change their behaviors when we might be making a larger contribution to the carbon footprint than we would like to believe. A carbon footprint is the amount of CO2 released into the air otherwise known as pollution can be made by individuals, communities, states, and countries. A lot of things contribute to the CO2 levels but mostly by gas emissions. For instance, my carbon footprint is around 30 tons per year which although below average definitely makes me want to change how I operate and make use of the materials around me. I really want to engage in more thrifting and I hope that through the course of this class I will learn more ways to decrease my carbon footprint.

The wicked problem that I am interested in exploring is the premature disposal of furniture, fixtures, and fittings. This is something that relates to interior design, most of household products are able to be recycled or re-purposed but instead they just increase the amount of waste in landfills and contribute to the pollution of the Earth. I want to investigate this topic because I believe that there is more than just one solution depending on the product. If we chose to implement a system to recycle damaged or out of style furniture I believe we could decrease the amount of waste. It could be re-purposed into other household items or we could create more biodegradable furniture. I am honestly so excited to investigate this issue further and gain more knowledge on the topic!

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