It’s the Little Things…

This past week in class has made me realize that sustainability is so much more than incorporating eco-friendly products and practices into daily life. When I was in 6th grade, we were assigned to read “Pay it Forward” written by Catherin Ryan Hyde. The message of the book stuck with me ever since. The story follows the main character Trevor who is assigned an extra credit assignment that asks students to go out and make a change in the world. Trevor comes up with a system he calls “pay it forward”. Basically, he will help three people to change their lives and the only thing he asks in return, is that they each do the same for three more people until thy movement grows so big it changes the world. Eventually, his dream actually becomes a reality. Trevor’s small act of kindness made a huge impact on so many people’s lives. It started a movement of positivity, kindness, and compassion. Similarly, when it comes to sustainability, I’ve learned that it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. For example, remembering to turn off lights when you aren’t using them, carpooling to work, or even using public transportation. If each person decided to take that extra step, keeping in mind how their choices affect others and the environment, then we could make a huge change. Of course, it’s always easier said than done. Or is it? 

The Rittel-Webber reading was challenging. It was difficult for me to understand what they were saying, and frankly, I’m not sure if I completely grasped what the publication was addressing. However, something that stuck with me was when he said,“…the aim is to not find the truth, but to improve the characteristics of the world” (Rittel-Webber, 167). In other words, whether we know if the solution will be successful, or we are just wasting our time, what is the harm in trying? What is the harm in taking a few steps that could potentially better people’s lives and  protect not only ourselves, but future generations? Our modern-day society is ruled by reality TV show politics, technology, and a mentality that we are invincible. We think that just because it’s not happening to us, or right in front of us, that it doesn’t exist. Though technology has improved our lives in so many ways, I believe it has also caused a division between the self and the real world. It allows us to exist in our own little world and thus separate from reality. Altering an entire social paradigm is a wicked problem in and of itself. Honestly, I believe our biggest hope for changing the social paradigm is through education and the youth. It’s important that we teach kids from an early age to love and care for the environment while also encouraging them to do tasks that would benefit the environment. For example, we could make it a requirement for elementary school students to learn how to recycle properly as well as what can and can’t be recycled. Not to mention, if we don’t find a way to change this social paradigm, it could single-handedly destroy the human race. 

This week, I also learned the difference between a wicked problem and a tame problem. A wicked problem is a problem that is not easily solved. It’s complex; there’s not one singular way to view the issue nor is there just one solution that can solve the problem. A tame problem, on the other hand, is a problem that can be solved with the right skills and application. Reflecting on the definition of a wicked problem, I remembered a quote from “Bleed For This”, a movie based on the story of former boxer Vinny Pazienza. In this scene, Vinny, played by Miles teller, is asked by the interviewer, “What is the greatest lie you’ve ever been told?” After a moment, Vinny responds and says, “it’s not that simple…/that is the biggest lie I was ever told, it is not that simple. It is a lie they tell you over and over again. That is how they get you to give up…/[the truth is] that it is.” The very essence of the definition of a wicked problem is that it’s a one-shot operation with no room for trial-and-error. So, why are we limiting ourselves? Why are we questioning, and not doing? Too often, we let ‘what ifs’ stop us from progressing forward. 

Works Cited:

Bleed for This. Ben Younger. Universal Studios, 2016. Film.

Rittel, Horst W. J., Webber, Melvin M. “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning.” Policy Sciences, vol. 4, 1973, pp. 155–169., doi:file:///C:/Users/20gra/Downloads/Reading%201%20-%20Rittel-Webber1973_Wicked%20Problems%20(2).pdf. 

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