“Sustainability” has been a buzz word for a while now, so much so that I have become exhausted of hearing the word. Until recently, every time I heard this word, I thought of the need to stop environmental degradation, the issue of global warming, and the incremental acts humans should take to protect the earth. I consider myself a pretty eco-conscious gal — I’ve been vegan for over 4 years, haven’t had a car for 2 years, most of my wardrobe is thrifted, I bring my own grocery bags, limit single-use plastics, use zero-waste hygiene products, organized community clothing swaps… all the things, I’ve done it — I’m all about stewarding the Earth well.. [My carbon footprint is 19,237 lbs CO2e if you want to size me up.. Although I’m not sure how accurate a 5 question quiz could really be,]. The sustainability movement though… recently it’s had negative connotations in my mind. This is for a few reasons — 1) the more I’ve listened to scientists and historians about the topic, as opposed to eco – hipsters on social media, the more I’ve began to question the authenticity of what I have previously been told about the topic of climate change/ sustainability (I know – gasp! Don’t hate me). 2) Many of the things people are doing in the name of saving the environment actually are harming the environment.. And the people on it. 3) People. This is a big thing for me — I have come to see in many parts of the sustainability movement a kind of soft hatred of humans.. you know what I’m talking about; we’ve all seen that image of the shark and the scuba diver with the words “This is the most dangerous animal in the world. It is responsible for millions of deaths every. By its side, a great white shark swims.” Plus the snarling attacks on any developing communities who, Heaven forbid, cut down a few trees so that they can grow food and advance and make life a little easier for themselves. How dare they do the same exact thing we did in America a couple hundred years ago. And of course all the talk of overpopulation — I suppose we could take a page out of China’s One-Child Policy book and forcibly sterilize women to dwindle the population down to nothing.. throwing newborns out in biohazard waste bags along the way… Sorry, that was intense, I’ll try and cool it down now. Thanks for letting me vent. Anyways, yeah, that’s kind of what my feelings about mainstream sustainability has evolved into. I hope to see the movement become less anti-human and more supportive of long-term symbiotic relationships between the earth and humans, and I hope that sustainability embraces the questioning of long-held beliefs and systems because I believe it will lead to great refinement and ultimately the best results.
I didn’t agree with everything the 11th Hour documentary had to say, one thing I did find interesting though, and probably my biggest takeaway, was how pretty much everything the film was saying is the same thing a lot of people are saying today — not much has changed, yet (according to a quick Google search) the film was created about 15 years ago. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest factors that contributes to this issue being a “wicked problem.” There’s no real conclusion, and there’s so many different perspectives and inputs that go into the topic, and the issue is pretty vague and lofty — it just doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Whereas, with a “tame” solution, there’s a clear problem, and it can be easily addressed. And it is interesting to me how in the original article by Rittel and Webber, where the idea of a “wicked problem” was first laid out, the authors elaborated on how people often look to the professionals, the experts to solve all the problems, but, according to the authors, the expert cannot solve a wicked problem and should not be expected to do so, because they just can’t solve wicked problems, yet today what I see is many people calling on “the experts” to solve all the problems. With this in mind, specifically related to my field, I would like to see less emphasis placed on “the experts.” I think it is certainly valuable to look to experts to see what they have to say on a topic, particularly if they’ve done a lot of unbiased research on the topic; however, I do not think that this means they should be the ‘end all – be all’ when it comes to addressing wicked problems, as there are other things to consider when making a decision, things about which they are not experts.