This semester in Wicked Problems has broadened my awareness and increased my knowledge of the many problems that have been negatively shaping our environment and threatening the livelihood of future generations. At the beginning of the course, I had some basic understanding of certain problems, such as climate change and pollution, but I did not fully understand the weight of these issues or the reasoning behind why these issues continue to exist.
One of my greatest takeaways from this course is to learn to examine all aspects of the problem in order to create effective solutions. If we want to find solutions to these wicked problems that will create a more sustainable living environment for future generations, we need to understand the problem itself from multiple points of view. We need to understand the background of the problem, the social, economic, and political factors behind the environmental problems that we face, and, ultimately, we need to take action towards finding solutions that will ultimately benefit and improve the health of our environment.
Another thing that I took away from this course is that change begins with our individual actions. In our own lives, there are ways that we can impact the environment around us, but ultimately our lifestyle decisions can encourage others around us to also make choices to improve the environment. The problems that we face concerning our environment will not just go away overnight, but will require us as humans to be diligent, patient, and more aware of the people around us, which should urge us to take action for the good and betterment of humanity. I think one topic that was touched on was the concept of “living in moderation” and I truly believe that, as humans, we should strive to live with less and consume less. Our society is driven by consumption and unfortunately that is the cause of so many of our environmental problems. Our lives would be so much better off with simply having less.
A third thing that I took away from this course is that taking some action, even if it is the smallest step towards a more sustainable future, is more impactful than taking none. In class, we briefly talked about “paralysis by analysis” and how many times the process of finding solutions becomes too drawn out. It is easy for people to become stagnant in the process of trying to understand problems and find solutions, and, eventually, it becomes too late and no changes are made or solutions are created. Unfortunately, I feel like this concept of paralysis by analysis is very real in our current generation. I think it is easy to talk about creating change in our environment and how we can improve our actions and even go to the extent of educating ourselves on environmental issues, but yet we still fail to take action. For example, when it comes to the apparel industry, we have the opportunity to buy from more sustainable brands, but there are still many people who continue to choose to buy from “fast fashion” brands and companies that are contributing to the increasing amount of industrial waste and resource overuse. As consumers, we need to thoughtfully choose who we give our money to and take into consideration how our individual actions can ultimately impact the environment.
This course helped me to understand how complicated these problems are and that there are truly no definitive and easy solutions to the environmental issues we’re dealing with. Because I am an apparel merchandiser, a wicked problem that I find most interesting and would like to learn more about is the problem of material and resource waste in the production of apparel and textiles. One thing I have been thinking about is the role that a merchandiser can play in the process of directing the apparel industry towards a more sustainable future. As merchandisers, we have the ability to see firsthand the increasing speed of the fashion cycle and how trends are constantly changing. I think it will be important to realize that this fast rate at which fashion trends are changing is unsustainable for a healthy environment and society. If we want to improve the overall sustainability of the apparel industry, we need to find a new cycle that prolongs the lifetime of styles and fashion trends, rather than overloading the industry with fashion trends that will ultimately use an excessive amount of resources to produce the apparel and will increase the amount of material waste.
One of the aspects of this course that I enjoyed the most was how it was heavily discussion-based, including class-wide discussions about different environmental arguments, as well as small group discussions through “learning communities” that we were broken into every week. I thought it was helpful and interesting to get multiple perspectives of the problem and allowed me to see the possibilities for multiple solutions to the problem. I think that this time with our small break-out group was helpful in understanding each other better and our wide range of viewpoints on different environmental matters. As a learning community, I wish there had been more time to discuss more about different wicked problems, such as pollution, material waste, or resource waste and brainstorm different solutions that could stimulate change in our world. We talked about the articles which were interesting to learn from, but I wish there would have been more open discussion about sustainability issues within our own field (apparel industry, architecture, engineering, etc.) I think it would be interesting to hear from the other people in my group how they would make changes in the industry or what actions they would take to improve the environment.
Overall, I believe that this class has provided me with a deeper understanding of the environmental issues that we face and ultimately show me the gravity of those issues and how the future of our environment is truly at stake when it comes to the decisions we make as a society. In my life, I can see ways of how I could improve as someone who encourages sustainability, even in the simplest ways, such as recycling or donating old apparel items, buying products that are manufactured by sustainable companies, choosing to be more mindful of my decisions and the people around me, or even simply just encouraging the people in my community – my friends, family, neighbors – to make choices that are more beneficial to the environment. I do not necessarily have to make huge changes in my life, but even just taking simple steps towards sustainability is impactful.