A Quick Death and a Slow Solution

When I first enrolled in Wicked Problems of Industrial Practice I had no idea what to expect. I had no clue what a “wicked problem” or “tame problem” was, and I certainly didn’t know how they would pertain to me and my future career. Even in just the first few weeks I’ve learned so much about how important it is to educate yourself on wicked problems, no matter who you are or what field you’re in. Every person has a responsibility to research the issues that are affecting our world today and put effort towards making this a better place to live. It may take some time but I truly believe each of us as individuals can work to make a difference in our world. 

First I should explain what a “wicked problem” is. A wicked problem is a vague and broad problem that doesn’t have a definitive solution. Our first reading “Dilemmas in General Theory of Planning” by Rittel and Webber we learned that there are ten characteristics that make a problem “wicked” that can be condensed into these six points: 1. Vague problem definitions 2. The problem having not just one answer, but many possible solutions 3. The problem seems to have no end point 4. The solutions would have irreversible effects 5. The problems are unique and require unique approaches to solving them. And finally 6. A wicked problem is urgent and requires immediate action. So as you can see a wicked problem is very different from a “tame” problem, which has a definitive solution and those solutions won’t have irreversible consequences. Knowing the difference between the two is really important when it comes to the actual problem solving part. You have to know how to approach a problem to be able to even start solving them.

Knowing about wicked problems and possible solutions that I can work toward personally is so important, especially in the fashion industry. Fashion has become so fluid and so fast paced in the past few decades, meaning that people are constantly changing their wardrobe, and therefore continuously throwing away clothes that are still in good condition. The fashion industry contributes to tons and tons of waste around the world, and that’s not an exaggeration. The fashion industry contributed to about 11 million tons of waist in 2010. One reason why something that seems so destructive is so popularized is because fast fashion makes all the latest trends cheap and easily accessible. Making sustainable and ethical products means that they’ll cost more. A lot of people don’t want to spend time and effort saving up for a product that is better for the environment, and will last longer when they can get something that looks or feels similar for much cheaper even though they know that the cheaper product is worse for the environment and worse quality.

For our situation to change we as individuals have to change. We need to stop thinking in terms of “how fast and how cheap can I get this product?” and start thinking about what product is going to best suit my needs and least affect the world around me; that’s what sustainability really is. We’ve been wired to think that efficiency is the most important thing and that if you can’t get something done efficiently then it doesn’t matter how good it is or how long it will last, but that way of thinking has been so destructive to the environment and to our own psyche. Like it was said in the 11th hour documentary, we’ve taken so much from nature, we’ve ruled over it and convinced ourselves that everything exists for our benefit. Soon we’re going to run out of things to take and it’s going to be too late to give back. Unless we make the effort now to change our mindsets we won’t have a chance of getting back to a clean healthy earth. To solve a wicked problem we have to think out of the box, and we have to understand that it’s a process; things aren’t going to change over night. It’s hard to change your entire lifestyle especially when the people around you are living differently than you, that’s why it’s so important to educate people about these issues that are affecting the environment and encourage them to work through this wicked problem together.

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