Beanbags, Pixie, and…Cautious Optimism?

     Over these last few weeks I’ve learned a lot. How to find the most supportive beanbag (the black one with a lot of beads), how to avoid spilling my coffee every time I move my belongings around, and how to toss a stuffed unicorn to people. Most importantly though, I learned to discuss wicked problems with logic and compassion in order to move towards a more sustainable future. 

      During this course I had the opportunity to discuss with and learn from my classmates. I also had the opportunity to impart some of my knowledge and experience to my classmates to hopefully improve their learning experience. In Week 1, I think I contributed to the learning community by discussing some of what was wrong with not only the fashion industry, but with how the world consumes resources. We discussed how we thought that humanity was nearing the brink of being unable to stop cataclysmic change to the environment and we came to a general consensus that we were almost certainly doomed. In Week 2, we began our mindfulness practice and then broke off into our YES and NO groups for our Western Values reading. I contributed to that discussion by helping to discuss details about how our values aren’t congruent to a sustainable lifestyle. During Week 3, we started gathering sources for our infographic and discussed our reading over whether or not poverty causes environmental degradation. I contributed to the learning discussion by asserting that a single cause can’t be attributed to environmental degradation and like all other social issues, this degradation has a web of factors that contribute to it. In Week 4, we had our final reading over whether or not the market or the government is better at creating meaningful long-lasting change. I contributed to the learning environment then by saying that the government can create long-lasting solutions because they exert more control over our day to day lives. During Week 4 we also did our infographics and I contributed to that by helping my group mates create a cohesive graphic that addressed our problem of fast fashion and its effects on human health. Overall, I think I used my experiences and my knowledge I gleaned from the readings and class to hopefully enhance both my and my classmates learning experience.

      My major takeaways from this course were that none of the wicked problems we discussed had a singular cause or source, and that these problems may not have an obvious or perfect solution. Before I began this class I had thought that some of these problems were very cut and dry and only had one cause and one solution. Since taking this class, I’ve learned that these problems are complex and have a web of causes and a web of possible solutions as well. One group might identify a problem differently than another and may both come up with a different solution. What works for one may not work for another and vice versa. It’s important to look at these problems through their eyes in order to come up with compassionate solutions that work for everybody. The solutions to these problems might also end up causing even more problems that exacerbate the issue already experienced and may permanently impact the environment and the people in that area.  Therefore, coming up with solutions is a delicate process that needs to be examined and re-examined to keep the proposed solution(s) as helpful and sustainable to human happiness and health as possible. 

      Some of the problems and solutions I’d like to learn more about include the impacts of pollution on various aspects of human health, how the fashion industry can cause unrest and poverty in developing countries, and how we as both consumers and laborers can more adequately meet the needs of consumers while minimizing our footprint on our environment. As I am going into the fashion industry, I’d like to make sure that I am being ethical and helping to maintain and protect the environment that we live in so that generations ahead of us can still use the resources that the earth gifts us. I think that by learning about these things I will be able to meet my sustainability and ethical long-term goals. 

        As I finish up this last blog and this class as a whole (not going to lie I’m really sad it’s over), I think it’s important for me to reflect on how I can bring what I learned into not only my circle of mentors and peers, but into my future industry as well. I think I can start by taking more sustainability courses and increasing my knowledge on problems so that I can relay to the people around me the most accurate and up to date information so that false or out of date information does not cloud or confuse people. I can also take small steps to curb my consumption like avoiding shopping places that don’t use resources and labor ethically and by reducing how much waste I put into the environment. I can also utilize my vote to put lawmakers in office that are passionate about sustainability and are willing to put policies into place that help the majority of people thrive while minimizing our collective footprint. I can also impact positive change by educating people about their role in wicked problems and how they can impact meaningful change within themselves and their communities. I can also help point people to resources that they can use to educate themselves and others with. As I get into my future profession I can use what I learn in college to help change industry practice and how resources and labor and consumed by advocating for fair trade policies and policies that help vulnerable populations to help prevent them being exploited. I can also influence those around me by setting a positive example (i.e., recycling and reusing, reducing consumption, buying secondhand, etc.) so that others can see and model positive sustainable behaviors. I think that by being a good example for myself and others, I can help to promote a more sustainable future. 

     Overall, I really enjoyed this course and will utilize the things I’ve learned in the future. I loved learning in an environment that was accepting and non-judgmental where we were able to discuss ideas with no worries about judgment. When I began this class I thought that there was very little we could do to prevent humanity’s demise, but now I’d like to approach the future with cautious optimism. Maybe we won’t be able to do everything in our lifetimes, but I think that with a change in how we consume resources and a change in our culture, maybe we will be the generation that changes the world.

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