The Wicked Truth

Sustainability is something that people not involved in the industry don’t even think about. Most people don’t know where their clothes came from or how the way they were made could be affecting the environment and the world as a whole. Sustainability has always been something the fashion industry has been concerned with, but brands are going to new lengths to prove their sustainability methods. The new generations care more and more about where their clothes come from, and how they may be affecting the world around us. Sustainability is something I would consider to be a wicked problem. Right now, there is no definitive end in sight, and it’s something that simply wouldn’t work in a lot of places. A wicked problem is a problem that cannot be solved without causing new problems, or maybe it can’t be solved at all. Things like global warming, deforestation, and overpopulation are examples of wicked problems. They are all problems that have no definitive solution, and even if there was one solution, it wouldn’t work in all places. Wicked problems are defined by six main characteristics: a problem has a vague definition, variable solutions, cascading effects, solutions that pose irreversible effects, solutions that require unique approaches, and most importantly urgency. A tame problem is something that we can take the time to solve. It’s a problem that we can eventually find one solution for. A wicked problem is the exact opposite. One solution just won’t work, and we don’t have the time to find the perfect solution.

The 11th hour documentary addresses some of these wicked issues and talks about how they are affecting our world. It talks about what will happen if these wicked problems are not solved, and calls viewers to action. Rittel and Webber’s article also specifically defines a wicked problem, and goes into depth on how we need to approach the problem. One thing that really stood out to me in this article was the fact that as the world becomes more diverse, different solutions need to be implemented for different groups since what may solve a problem for one group will create a problem for another.

Paradigms and self-narratives are important to consider when trying to solve a wicked problem. Paradigms are collective mental modes that are made up of our values, beliefs, and assumptions. Paradigms are the lens through which we perceive the world, but we often don’t notice them. They are different for each person, but so many of us have similar beliefs. For example, one dominant social paradigm we talked about was the idea that nature is an income rather than an asset. This is a paradigm in which people believe that “the earth is ours, so why shouldn’t we use it?” Paradigms are hard to shift, but in order to solve wicked problems, wouldn’t a shift be necessary? We are dealing with so many problems because of people who think this way, so it seems too simple to say that “if these people just stopped believing we can just use things without consequences then the world would be fine!” But paradigm shifts aren’t that simple. They involve the changing of a person’s entire belief system. People believe what they do because of what they’ve experienced in their lives, so a paradigm shift is a huge ordeal. You would have to experience something truly impactful to ignite a change like that, and that just isn’t possible to do for most people. Self-narratives are much the same, but are on a much smaller scale. Self-narratives can change frequently, and will do so as what you value most changes, and what you assume is proved wrong. Our attitudes are influenced by our self-narrative, but our behavior is influenced by paradigms. Another major topic involves intergenerational responsibility. The younger generation is currently trying to better the world and make everything renewable for themselves and the generations to come, but the older generations don’t have the same outlook. They think that since they won’t experience the repercussions of their actions in their lifetime, that they don’t need to change the way they are living. The progress the younger generations are making towards change is being hindered by the lack of responsibility of the older generations. The older generation is dealing with the Titanic Syndrome, which is the belief that “We’re all going down anyway, so I might as well go first class!” This viewpoint just keeps people from taking ownership of their own actions. I find this view in particular interesting, because so many people are seeming to be living this way. They believe that there are no consequences for using all the nonrenewable resources or causing damage to our planet’s ecosystems, when in reality it will be life changing for the future generations.

My carbon footprint is a little lower than the average American’s. The average is 19.2, but mine is 13.07. I think this is mostly because right now I am walking most places on campus, rather than driving like I normally would. The United States average is understandably much higher however. Most Americans drive to work because they generally don’t live within walking distance of their jobs, however as a full-time college student I walk almost everywhere I go. One thing I want to change in my field to help reduce the fashion industry’s carbon footprint is help reduce the amount of fast fashion. Fast fashion is extremely harmful to the environment and puts tons of pollutants into the atmosphere. This is something that definitely needs to be slowed down and discouraged, but is a wicked problem that has no end in sight.

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