If someone would have asked me a month ago what it meant to live sustainably, I would have said something to the effect of using reusable bags instead of plastic at the grocery store or thrifting items instead of purchasing new ones. While these are both steps in the right direction of upholding a sustainable lifestyle, I have recently learned that it is so much more than that. After having been enrolled in the Wicked Problems course for only a few short weeks, and watching the 11th Hour film as well as reading about the people of Easter Island, it has opened my eyes to the need for immediate change in the way we live our day to day lives and has made me realize the impact I alone can have on the current state of our environment. The environmental crisis our earth is undergoing is the definition of a wicked problem— there is no simple way in which to approach it.
Most of the time I don’t think twice about using plastic straws when eating out or ordering clothes online. I don’t think about that plastic ending up in the ocean or check to make sure the site’s products I’m shopping on are being manufactured ethically, and even when I do the thought eventually passes and I go back to my life doing the same things I did before. Sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye to things that seem scary or difficult. Many of us, myself included, have this mindset that we’re just one person and we can’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things but that’s simply not true. My carbon footprint alone is 16.49 metric tons. The goal is to achieve a carbon footprint of 2 metric tons per person worldwide in order to fight climate change. Every decision we make matters. I think about having kids in the future and question if I really want to bring more children into a world that is struggling to this extent—species and plant life dying off almost systematically, natural disasters occurring more frequently, the enormous amount of pollution, the lack of natural resources, etc. I now feel a sense of responsibility to live sustainably and work to preserve our remaining resources as much as we can while we have the chance, so that future generations are given the opportunity to prosper.