Blog #1

Before this course, I thought I had gained a general understanding of the idea behind sustainability and its definition through public information and promotion.  At first, I thought of sustainability as just a fancier way to say ‘recycle’ or ‘clean up our planet’, but soon gained additional knowledge as it pertained to my field in some of my early DHM classes. Yet, within a week, I have come to understand that sustainability is more than just recycling plastic and refurbishing old furniture. While these things are equally as important, I have learned that sustainability encompasses the idea of intergenerational responsibly, meaning we have an obligation to maintain and better our earth for our children and grandchildren to prosper long after our generation is gone. I have realized it is important to be mindful in every part of my day to day life because there are so many opportunities I have to be sustainable.

I had never heard the term, ‘wicked problem’ until this course, and was alarmed that the phrase stood for so many problems we face today, such as poverty, world hunger, global warming, and many more. These ‘wicked problems’ are issues that lack a clear solution, have no end point, and on top of their urgency, their solutions require unique approaches that pose the risk of irreversible effects.  They stretch far beyond the means of an instant fix, and call for mindful, human action to take strides in lessening the shear power of these global issues. Unlike a complex wicked problem, tame problems are sequential and have definitive solutions with many more people on board with those solutions. I feel that often times, problems are defined as tame because the majority of people effected by them have the resources to solve them, whereas wicked problems, such as poverty and world hunger, effect those who do not have the resources to solve them.  Why do those that have the resources to assist, neglect those who need help the most?

Both TED talks were very eye opening in the way that they expose just how detrimental our actions are to the planet we live on.  I was able to personally relate to Andrew Dent’s TED talk on the idea of thrift because I am a firm believer that clothes and other material things can serve more than one purpose in their lifetime. I was very satisfied with the statistics he gave on how the automobile industry combats waste through their own sustainable actions. I was always curious how many old or totaled cars end up in the landfill but I now know that that number is very low. Although I am not a very tech savvy person, it was interesting to me that digital manufacturing allows us to be more effective in what we produce and create less waste in the process. I think if people understood that taking more time to plan effective and mindful production and use of materials, not only would they end up with a lower percentage of waste, but they would also save money in the process. After watching Paul Gilding’s “The Earth is Full” TED talk, I was alarmed that the timestamp on the video dated back to February of 2012. Has our generation really not being listening to or seeing the warning signs that our current pace of consumption and growth will ultimately end in our own destruction much similar to that of Easter Island? I agree with his short statement that we as a society are “living beyond our means” and it is going to catch up with us if we don’t start paying attentions to the voices of certain individuals, such as the Greta Thunberg. I feel as though it is possible, according to Paul Gilding, for us to have infinite growth on a finite planet, we just have to reevaluate our wants, needs, and actions in a way that transforms them into mindful and sustainable practices.

After taking the carbon footprint test, I was shocked to see that my family or four alone produces 43 tons od CO2 every year. Even more surprising is that number is 28% better than average. I’m sure there are so many small steps my family and so many others can take to reduce that number, starting with simply being aware. If more of our society adopted the Native American perspective of sustainability, being a heightened presence in mind and understanding how a single part relates to a whole, I’m sure that number would fall drastically. I liked the example Larry Merculieff gave on flower picking, and that when they pick flowers, they only pluck every 7th flower, making sure to harvest evenly rather than clear an entire area and make the chances of re-harvesting slim. If we had this same approach on cutting down the forests, I feel that we would be able to ration our last 5% remaining and possibly nurture it rather than clear it.  

On the topic of sustainability, it is common for people to believe that their one single action won’t make a difference. Yet, what happens if that same person says that once a week, or even once a day? How many other people are thinking that same thought and choose to not act sustainably because of it? This, in my opinion, is the wrong mindset and is the reason why we haven’t seen more change in our generation’s sustainable actions. If even half of those people altered their self-narrative to consider the future rather than the present, there is the opportunity for a massive paradigm shift that helps those individuals reimagine the future of the world where their children and grandchildren will grow.

Prior to our first reading, I was familiar with the name “Easter Island” but never was aware of the true disaster that occurred on that island, and more frightening, how easily it can be compared to our society today. In a literal sense, we are clearing our trees just as swiftly as they did theirs. The reasons why are technologically different, but the motives are the same. We use these resources without end to better ourselves and the material things we own with the idea of improving our overall image to stand out in our society, just like the Easter Island natives. I do feel that we have a better understanding of the consequences to our actions than this society did, but in both situations, little to none is being done to decrease the rate of consumption. What is more frightening though, is that this reading, meant to be a warning, was written years ago, along with Paul Gildings “The Earth is Full” TED talk, and there seems to be little to no change in our environmental destruction.

I would like to further explore the wicked problem that deals with furniture and other household waste in the landfills, and possibly architectural waste (demolition waste). It shocked me in Andrew Dent’s TED talk that 1/3rd of all landfills are made of architectural waste. Imagine if that number was cut in half through his ideas of thrifting materials and forming them into something new? Just because something is used does not make it un-reusable. Further down my career path, I would like to create a business that helps less fortunate families make inexpensive, efficient improvements to their homes through thrifted, sustainable materials. I have very much enjoyed being able to expand my knowledge on the subject of sustainability and to be more optimistic in the ways that sustainability can be practiced.

Mackenzie Erdley

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