Hello, readers and classmates!
What a whirlwind this course has been. In the beginning, we discussed the urgency of saving the planet and the potential collapse that could occur if we do not act quickly to do so. From that point onward, we have talked about globalization, fashion, poverty, and government, and each topic unveiled a new, crispy layer of the massive filo dough pastry that is Wicked Problems of Industrial Practice. Which topics, when cut into, had the most satisfying crunch? Which felt soggy or stale? All this and more in this final blog to this dessert-riddled series.
I had the unique experience of taking this course last in my Sustainable Design minor checklist, which meant that I came into it thinking that I would hear about a lot of things I’ve already thought about over the last four years. However, every single week I felt I was challenged to not only look at different aspects of sustainability that I might not have considered, but to consider the reasoning behind different perspectives that didn’t always align with my own. As someone who was already further along in the Sustainable Design minor than others might have been, I felt like my main contributions to the learning community involved different sustainability considerations. From talking more about population as a wicked problem in the first couple weeks of the course to shifting focus from poverty to manufacturing processes in the last few weeks – in most conversations, I tried to help my small groups think differently or more broadly about the articles we read. More specifically, as an architecture student, what I brought most to the class involved building materials and the process a material might go through in the manufacturing and construction process. That contribution was maybe not the most important in a broadly thinking class, but hey, it might have helped my team’s infographic series.
What I would have loved to talk about more with the class is what we can do as individuals to be environmental activists, because this is something I think and challenge myself about a lot. Many people try to simply bring their own bags to the grocery store and carry a water bottle around – which is surely important as well – but, like The 11th Hour film touched on, we need to do more: take initiative to figure out what manufacturers we can trust, utilize our consumer power to support local and sustainable practices, but above all, VOTE for those in office who will make a real impact on environmental policy. Donald Trump, over the course of his presidency, has done more damage to the environment than most know about, from not only withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, but also dropping climate change as a national security threat and loosening EPA regulations to allow for even more potential pollution. Posted in the beginning of 2019, National Geographic lists 15 ways in which the Trump administration has impacted the environment at this link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/02/15-ways-trump-administration-impacted-environment/. Also, worth considering is the environmental damage done that has not yet been listed because of the impact of heavier pollution and ignoring climate change.
As the paragraph above suggests, my biggest and broadest takeaway from this course is the urgent need for better environmental policy and regulations. If we go back to all of those environmental layers of this Wicked Problems pastry – deforestation, over fishing, quarrying and mining, waste mismanagement, overpopulation, trophy hunting, or pollution, to name just a few – most of these issues can be eradicated or at least managed through environmental policy and regulation. Sure, consumers have the power to take small actions to minimize environmental degradation, as well they should, but until the larger powers of government (whether through incentivizing or otherwise) take action, people will still throw their litter out their car window on the highway, Walmarts will still produce hundreds of thousands of tons of waste in overstock, and manufacturing companies will pollute ‘till the end of the Earth, literally. Individuals who are trying to help the planet, which hopefully is at least everyone reading this article (including myself), should try to stay informed not only as a consumer, but as a citizen by keeping up with the environmental policies and ballots in their communities and in their country. More than any other issue, this is something I’d like to learn more about and get better at moving forward from this class, and hopefully it’s something that other students can consider as well.
Luckily, my circle of influence includes a lot of people who may be able to incite meaningful change on a larger scale. As someone who will hopefully be a Registered Architect in a few short years, I hope to take what I’ve learned from this course, as well as other courses from my Sustainable Design minor, and apply it meaningfully to my work and my colleagues’ work. Soon, I will be someone making decisions that impact the environment, and by being aware of issues like embodied energy, environmental policy, and pollution, I’ll be able to make a difference through designing buildings that consume less energy, utilize recycled materials, and minimize carbon footprint, if not eradicate it completely in the future. And apart from my professional circle, in my family I’ll be able to encourage those individual practices I’ve talked about so much in this blog post already: consuming responsibly and staying politically informed, but also recycling, minimizing single-use waste, and minimizing energy consumption whenever possible. These are things I already talk to friends and family about and will continue to discuss and encourage whenever I can.
As my faithful readers know, in every blog post I end with another dessert analogy, and this final post should be no different. Much like a flaky, buttery filo dough pastry, Wicked Problems is a course with never-ending layers – even those layers have layers, as we have gotten to dive into what makes those wicked problems so wicked. For us students taking the course, those layers are all connected by us wanting to be better, more informed humans, and though it’s impossible to wrap our heads around every single layer all at once, by taking this course we were able to get one step closer to being the kinds of people that can really analyze environmental issues, and make a difference in the future, no matter how big or small. Just like everyone should stuff their faces with delicious filo dough at every given opportunity, everyone should also stuff their brains with the rich knowledge from this course and share it with all the folks we run into. It is our responsibility now, to go out and try to be better and help others be better.
Thank you for reading, my filo-loving fans, and best of luck – we all need it if we’re going to fix this mess we’re in.