Sustainability—I care about the planet and I try to practice this concept as much as I can! Or do I? Before diving into this complex idea, I thought I knew all about “being green” and being a friend to this world we live in. However, in just a few short hours, my eyes have been opened to a situation far greater than I could’ve ever realized. Sustainability is so much more than not getting a straw with your iced latte at Aspen, but it is rather an urgent issue each and every person on Earth needs to be aware of and practice to continue the way we want (and think we need) to live our daily lives. We do not want to leave our future generations with a greater burden than we have today since it affects me, you, the trees, the flowers, the oceans, every creature, the air, and everything else around us.
Growing up in a rural agricultural community, I understood how man and nature worked together. I did not realize, however, how much we were taking from the land and never returning the favor. Every unsustainable action my family and the families around me takes isn’t seen as an issue because it is simply thought to be a necessity to pay the bills. Upon finding my family’s carbon footprint on the world was almost 100 tons of CO2/year and 45% worse than average, my heart sunk. The majority of the issue came from my family’s excessive travel usage. My father has two vehicles, with one being a diesel pickup truck, and the miles to and from our farm 45 minutes away had a severe impact on our footprint. None of our vehicles have incredible gas mileage either, so that drove up the carbon usage as well. I quickly realized I, and my family, has a lot to alter in our lifestyle to make a positive change on this wicked problem of climate change.
What makes climate change such a “wicked problem?” This kind of problem is characterized by several factors including its lack of a clear definition, simple and straightforward solution, and endpoint, its urgency, uniqueness, and its irreversible nature. These six points showcase the struggles our world has faced, is facing, and will continue to face. It has been shown in the example of Easter Island with their lack of conservation of resources and overpopulation in a small island region, and it is seen today as documented in the 11th Hour film describing multiple wicked problems in the 21st century.
The issues of sustainability and the wicked problems of our world are constantly buzzing at the forefront of my mind ever since I walked out of Willard that first Tuesday of class. I’m beginning to understand the implications of every decision and action in my day. Now that I realize how much I truly care about sustainability and the well-being of the world, the only question is, “What am I actually going to do about it?”