Learning, Growing, and Doing

Entering the classroom on the first day of class I had no idea what a wicked problem was, but I knew I cared about sustainability and I was ready to learn more. After I began to develop an understanding about wicked problems and what they really are I realized how difficult it is to truly solve them. Now, as we have moved forward in our class, my view of how to approach them has transformed into a great curiosity. A part of me wonders if we will ever be able to solve any of the problems we face or if our world will just slowly deteriorate. Or, if perhaps our attempts to solve them will only create more and more issues. Despite these fears, I do still possess the motivation to learn how I can contribute to a better tomorrow.

When contemplating the various problems I have learned about so far, my mind immediately jumps to how fashion is negatively impacting our environment and our people. I am so excited to go into the fashion industry, but knowing that I might contribute to sweatshops, water waste, and mass production leaves me upset and confused. Based on my current feelings about this specific wicked problem, I still have a lot to learn about what I can do as a fashion designer to not only lessen my negative impact, but begin to change the fashion industry for the better.

With this mindset and my fears that I previously mentioned, practicing mindfulness has greatly improved my feelings towards the work I have yet to begin. Practicing mindfulness has taught me to have patience with myself and others as these problems are not easily solved. It has taught me to not victimize myself, but instead take part in being the solution, no matter how long or difficult that might be. The issues that threaten our world and well-being seem to loom over me as if it is fate for us to fail. However mindfulness practice has helped encourage me to not give up even if I never see the results of my work.

After reflecting on these thoughts, I believe I have reached the point of compassionate curiosity concerning wicked problems. Now, I want to learn how I can help solve them not only because of my own interest, but in order to preserve our environment and protect innocent workers. Each problem I learn about adds to the hurt I feel for the people and parts of our Earth that are suffering, but accompanying this hurt is also the knowledge that I can be a part of healing our world one step at a time. 

As our class has investigated numerous wicked problems so far I have noticed my responses transforming as time goes by. The first few problems we looked at, climate change, dependency on non-renewable energy, and resources running low, left me in awe and unsure how to respond. These problems seemed bigger than me, so how could I ever even start to solve them? At first, that’s all I thought about, how to solve the problems we were learning about. However, as we have continued to look into each new problem and what effect it has on our world, I realized that there is much more to wicked problems than just solving them.

I am now beginning to understand that the first step when investigating any wicked problem is to grasp the full extent of it. Once I was able to do this, I could assess each new problem we learned about individually. For example, for the out-of-class assignment, my group is researching sweatshops. Going into our research I first took the time to get to know the issue and all the aspects of it. I learned about the different impacts that sweatshops have on employees in low-income countries, manufacturers, designers, CEOs, and consumers. I found that each group is affected in its unique way by decisions that are made concerning sweatshops. Whether it’s laying off employees to afford better wages, enforcing laws, or expanding them to support mass production, these all affect those involved in sweatshops.

Due to this change in my approach, I am able to have better responses as well. Having both compassionate and humble responses is challenging when looking at problems that seem impossible to ever solve. However, with the right attitude and added motivation, I believe I can have this response to any new wicked problem I face. Right now I am still on my way to being able to respond both compassionately and humbly as I still get caught up in the details. However, with each new issue, I have noticed that I have become more and more compassionate. Even with a more general issue such as climate change I immediately think of how this is hurting our Earth and that we cannot let it continue. At the same time though, I have to humble myself and remember that this is a big issue and I cannot solve it in one day or even one year!

So after reflecting on how my responses to wicked problems have greatly transformed as the class has gone by, I would say my responses are compassionate, but not always humble. I still struggle to understand that I cannot help everyone and solve the issue at hand perfectly. In order to tackle this issue, I plan on reminding myself to stay humble when I practice mindfulness. I believe that doing this will train me to always have a humble mindset. Hopefully having a humble mindset will in turn change the way I respond to wicked problems. Although I do still struggle with this part of my response, I feel that my understanding of each problem is growing and changing with time. I now know that I need to focus on staying humble while contemplating each problem and continue to have compassionate responses. By achieving this, I will be able to effectively comprehend any wicked problem and move towards creating a better, more sustainable tomorrow!

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