Originally, I thought of sustainability as environmentally friendly and safe practices. Through the first week of this class, I have learned that it is so much more than that. I now know it is the ability to maintain a practice or method in a way that does not harm or take away from the environment that we live in. I think that in the past 10 years, this definition or idea has become very important to people throughout the world. Climate Change and Global Warming are becoming topics that almost everyone has heard about and wants to see change in. People are starting to take the term sustainability very seriously in their everyday practices and habits.
A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult to solve or find an answer for because it seems virtually impossible to fix. An interesting point about wicked problems is that a lot of them are present because of human activity and things we have done that are so far gone, they are hard to reverse the effects of at this point. Another issue about wicked problems is that a lot of people don’t recognize them as issues because of how normal they have become.
Andrew Dent discussed in his TED Talk about how when we “throw” something away, it really never goes away unless it’s biodegradable. For example, plastic never leaves earth. Seriously – since it was invented in the early 1900’s, every single piece of plastic that has been produced is still floating around in some shape or form on earth. Some of it might have been consumed by animals on accident, and some of it is sitting in landfills with the rest of our trash that cannot be made rid of. Paul Gliding says in his TED Talk that our earth is full. There really isn’t much more room for any more waste, but unfortunately very little is/can be done to change the amount of waste we are producing. A recent movement towards eliminating waste is the reusable straw trend. It has been revealed that plastic straws are ending up in the oceans and they are incredibly harmful to the turtles. In an effort to suppress this problem, many people have purchased reusable metal straws that they keep in their bags or car so they can use them at restaurants, coffee shops, and other places where they would otherwise be served plastic straws. However, this is just one small solution to a part of a very big problem. Something needs to be done soon, because as Gliding said, our earth is literally full – there’s nowhere else for all of our trash to go.
There a six characteristics of wicked problems that are the reasons why they are hard to resolve using traditional scientific approaches: vague problem definitions, variable solutions, solutions have no end point, solutions pose irreversible effects, solutions require unique approaches, and the issues are urgent. These characteristics make problems more difficult to solve because they add more parameters to an already complicated situation.
The video we watched about Native American sustainability was really sad to see how it is possible to make better use of our natural resources, we just don’t. We are so engrossed in this idea of the more we have, the greater we are. We want everything at once and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it. For example, when picking flowers, the native americans pick every seventh flower in the bush to avoid overpicking and ultimately killing one push by taking all of its buds at once. Most people, however, will pick the entire bush at once without even thinking about the long term effect it will have on the bush. This put into perspective that with just a little more thought and consideration before we act on things, we could save our resources and not have to panic when we run into a problem we could have avoided.
Easter Island was a reflection of how we interact with Earth right now. We keep using and using our resources without realizing if we don’t slow down, we are going to run out of them and be left with nothing. Without natural resources, we can’t survive, and Easter Island is a prime example of that. The only issue is that we don’t realize we are going to run out of our resources until we really do.
After taking the quiz to see my carbon footprint, I found that I (in my household in Dallas) produce 70 tons of CO2 a year, which is 17% better than the average. This was a lot more than I was expecting to produce and I was shocked when I saw that number come up on the screen.
A wicked problem I would like to explore is Fast Fashion. My major is Apparel Merchandising, so it is very relevant to me and something I hear about a lot now that I’m in college. Fast Fashion affects both our environment and the workers who are producing it. Fast Fashion is cheaply, sweatshop produced clothing that uses harmful chemicals and dyes in production. The textile waste from this trend is incredibly harmful and is overflowing in our landfills. I would like to explore further solutions that could be implemented in order to solve this issue beyond what might be occurring now.