Any Last Words?

As the class comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on all the many concepts and new ideas that have illuminated my journey through Wicked Problems of Industrial Practice. The class explored the many facets of how environmental issues are diagnosed and what makes the truly “wicked.” Concepts of sustainability have not just been taught but truly nurtured as well as the ability to actually address those concepts and adopt them into a plan for action. This class brought together designers of broad and wide backgrounds together to grasp how to truly define those concepts of designing with humility. This means that instead of having the belief that a designer’s plan will completely address an issue, designing with humility means that designers design with the intent to always innovate and improve. Designing with humility was a completely new concept to me when I first started this class but it has now been indoctrinated into my approach to not only professional but also personal design concepts. In this sense my biggest area of enhanced knowledge has been my design philosophy.

An architectural approach to design, while elaborate in it’s own sense must be modified to include a more modest approach. This may initially seem contradictory as architecture is a process of elaborating an otherwise vernacular structure into a piece of art, but the opposite cannot be more true. A design of humility is a design lacking overzealous ambition, not lacking beauty or elaboration. In truth, humility perhaps requires more of an elaborative approach in order to continue addressing future wicked problems. If a designer doesn’t elaborate on a wicked problem before addressing it, more problems typically arise as a result of a short-sighted solution. A critically examined plan will elaborate on specifics so that unforeseen problems are no longer unforeseen.

I wish I had gotten more time to explore the concept of mindfulness and practiced it more often after completing our assignments over it. The introduction of a new way to organize and calm my day was greatly appreciated and I plan on extending my knowledge of the concept by continuing to practice meditation. While there are many forms of mindfulness, this is the most common and worked the best for me during the fall semester. This exercise in mindfulness helps with connecting to nature in ways too serene to be commonplace in a bustling world, numbed to nature. I believe it to be one of the few helpful things in helping with anxiety this year for myself.

My biggest takeaway however from this course was not the curriculum at all, but instead the discussions and conversations had during class. Many conversations and class discussions allowed me to interact with a multitude of other opinions, both agreeing and disagreeing with my own. These interactions allowed me to further my own thoughts on environmental issues as well as the solutions to those issues. I found out that my solution may not be the same as other students in priorities or strategy. This type of diverse thought process challenges and only furthers knowledge on sustainability and allows me to think about which solutions are the best to fully as well as realistically address wicked problems.

One such excellent conversation had recently focused on raising taxes on oil and natural gas in order to deter consumers from overuse of non-renewable resources. This solution was met by surprising amounts of criticism from other students in the class however, which started an excellent conversation into what a better solution would be to address oil and natural gas. The student who criticized the solution was concerned about raising taxes on towns with poor economies and the negative effects that will play on their lives. This was a point that I had not thought of as when I usually think about sustainability it usually helps people instead of hurting them. This was something that was very controversial within the discussion group and raised a lot of questions but was ultimately an issue that ended on a positive note as well. If anything both sides of the conversation had a chance to better understand each other and walk away with more knowledge of the issue.

One problem that I will continue to  be thinking about is the solution to the issue of oil and natural gas companies and the dependency many economies have on this industry. In Oklahoma particularly this is a hot button subject due to one of the main sources of income in the state being oil and natural gas. A large scale conversion of this industry to renewable energy is an important step towards fixing the environmental crisis caused by fossil fuels dominance in society. 

A strong point made through this class is the potential for personal actions to change the world. Through the semester, the class has been introduced to multiple organizations that fight for the environment and all of the natural systems that humans rely on for survival. These organizations and movements started with one design plan to address an environmental problem in society. This design plan had to be organized from the start and address every part of the problem. It was encouraged throughout the semester to draw inspiration from these sources when thinking of ways to affect your own personal sphere of influence and create positive change.

As I reflect one final time, I can’t help but think of my ability to not only become active by personally reducing my plastic use but also in larger ways. The Stillwater community has large issues with recycling and often gets overwhelmed. This is a problem that creates more waste in the long run and creates an even bigger issue that was originally conceived. By becoming more active in the sustainability department of Campus as well as contacting City Hall, I believe that I will be able to make much needed change towards helping my local community have the ability to recycle and reduce waste thrown into the environment. This is an obtainable and possible goal that will require time and work but I am very interested in doing that before I am able to become an architect and focus on sustainability within a professional scope. Whether or not I succeed, I have tools and information from this class to use that I did not before and have fully enjoyed this experience.

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