Our world has wicked problems. We are polluting, wasting, and depleting our resources that will sustain future generations. Are we so greedy, selfish, and self-absorbed that we just do not see our wicked ways? I believe that sustainability begins with education. It was Wicked Problems, DHM 1003, that introduced me to sustainability. I began to reflect on the global environment and how it was deteriorating. I am cognizant of my own actions towards global warming. Do I need to drive or should I take my bicycle? Do I need ten pairs of shoes or a couple of quality made pairs? After my self-reflection, education should be filtered among the community and county. I believe that every city and county dump site should be outfitted with recycling centers. If it is convenient and well publicized, citizens can easily recycle plastic, paper, glass, and aluminum. I also recommend that every degree at Oklahoma State University require Wicked Problems in their curriculum.
Through my education I have come to realize that society needs to change the paradigm as to what is considered appropriate purchasing habits. Consumerism is when people find meaning, contentment, and acceptance by what they consume. There needs to be a shift to sustainability and that it is more important than materialism. Consumers need to change their beliefs that purchases make them happier, humans are separate from nature, and nature can be exploited for human purpose. Ecologically, people need to find value in restoring the planet and not find value in materialism. One solution is through equity. People should share resources so one person doesn’t over-indulge because of wealth, while others indulge just to survive. Next, educate consumers about the adverse effects of processed and junk food, tobacco, disposable goods, obesity, and obsessive materialism. How do we change the paradigm? That is a hard question. How was the paradigm changed that smoking was disgusting and bad for your health? It was changed through education, public awareness, and peer pressure. The paradigm can also be changed by a movement to use public, sustainable resources. Consumers should find gratification in supporting public parks, libraries, transit systems, community gardens, and recycling to eliminate waste. It will be hard to change the paradigm, but it can be done systematically.
Next, sustainability goes beyond the United States. It is imperative that the world understand globalization and protect the global environment. Through my education in Wicked Problems, I have learned that third world countries would prosper from modern industry without contributing excess pollution. Low income countries would have priority to improve sewage treatment, water supply, and electricity. Free market benefits the exporting of knowledge and technology to the developing world. This only works for market economies and not socialist economies. Globalization if done effectively can lead to economic growth and prosperity, protection of the environment, and many social benefits. Free and open market, property rights, and rule of law hold people accountable for their actions and rewards people for positive behavior. A producer is not going to waste high-priced resources for production. They develop substitutions or alternatives. Property rights encourage private landowners to preserve and protect their property. Rule of Law is the binding for business and trade. Legal systems provide security, contracts are enforced, and local cultures can choose what to produce and how they will protect the environment. Again, education plays a key role.
A huge educational insight that I have had the privilege to learn was mindfulness. It is not just being mindful about what you are doing at that moment. For example, making sure you are taking the proper medication at a certain time of the day or following all the instructions on an assignment that is due in a few hours. Mindfulness brings true happiness leading to awareness of what is around you. It creates positive psychological effects and increases compassion and clarity. Having mindfulness allows a person to have empathy and compassion instead of being judgmental. Mindfulness allows one to understand the problems of other people. Mindfulness gives us balance in life. Since our life is peaceful, we have the time and patience to help others. We have the ability to lead more sustainable behavior. If our mental health is flooded with stress and depression, it is harder to consider societal concerns such as climate change. Mindfulness improves physical health such as chronic pain and immune functions. Personal well-being has positive results from intrinsic (belonging naturally) and authentic (genuine) goals that are naturally satisfying and meaningful.
Mindfulness is not just paying attention to your surroundings and being aware of what is happening. It is a state of mind. One way to instill mindfulness is through meditation. I was able to practice some meditation in my Wicked Problems class. There was music, a calming voice, and shoulder rolls. At first it felt weird and uncomfortable. I think about meditation since being introduced to the concept. I think about being calm and relaxing. I feel I have more control when people are rude, outspoken, or full of drama. I find myself sitting in a quiet place, and telling my body to relax.
Coming full circle, how does mindfulness create sustainability? When we are mindful we are more open minded to understanding the wicked problems in our world. We are more concerned to find alternative methods to our need for materialism. People don’t need every kitchen gadget made. Many meal preps can be done with a knife and cutting board. Many utensils have multiple purposes if you think outside the box. Our lives are less about us and more about others and future generations. For example, when you go camping, leave no trace. Pick up and dispose of your trash. When you go hiking in the wilderness, the motto is, “Take only pictures.” Same holds true for our planet. A real concern becomes the environment and how we are wasting natural resources. Mindfulness keeps us open to new ideas to save our plant. We look for new innovative ideas in fashion, design, and production of new products. We use materials that are sustainable, green, or made from recyclables.