Sustainability and the World

The answer to saving the planet is a wicked one.

We do not have a solid answer. We do not know the answer. The answer is going to look different in different places.

Wicked problems are difficult to understand. That is why we need to learn about it; because it is difficult. Wicked problems are issues that have no one answer for the entire world. Wicked problems are, truly, unanswerable. People all across the world have different values, different cultures, different ways of living. What is a solution in one country could be absurd or even disrespectful in another country. Our differences make us unique, even within the same country or region. Our differences, though, make it seemingly impossible for us to solve the current state of crisis our planet is in. In the course I took this semester labeled ‘Wicked Problems’ we dove deep into the concepts of wicked problems. One of the most interesting articles we read about was about Easter Island.

This article told the story of the mysterious stone heads that stand around the island. It wasn’t some conspiracy theory, like aliens put them there, it was realistic. It told the story of the people that lived there. It explained that they made the stone heads. That they might have been made to protect the island. They might have been made to protect the people. In the end, sadly, the stone heads were most likely what killed the people of Easter Island. They ruined the land they had to live on for the transportation of the stones that meant so much to them.

This is a wicked problem. The people of Easter Island had certain cultural norms and a specific belief system that allowed them to agree, as a society of people, that the stone heads were extremely important to their existence. There may have been people at the time who did not believe this, and would have rather saved the land, but the majority of people felt as if these stone heads were necessary. They couldn’t just stop carving them. The people wanted and needed them for their comfort. But the stone heads were destroying the island. Either by depriving them of trees, or ruining the soil to the point to which it became unusable.

A common theme when talking about wicked problems is speaking of the compassion within the issues. We need to be kind, caring, and understanding to these issues. We must understand that while one solution might logically work for the entire planet, we need to think deeper. We must think of different cultures and different belief systems. We must look into different classes of people and how every type of person will be affected by a solution. We want to keep individuality alive on this planet, but in order to do that we want to keep individuals alive. We want people to express their differences, to celebrate the things that sets their culture apart from other cultures, but we are also searching for ways to live sustainably. So we can continue to encourage others to celebrate their cultures and beliefs and values.

Even within the same region and culture, every single person is different. Every individual human being on this planet has a different set of core values. Yes, people find comfort in relating core values with others, but in the end every person will have a different solution to the same problem. This is what, again, makes it wicked. We need to be compassionate and truly think about, and care about, people’s values. We need to find an answer to our dying planet while including a thought of how different people will react to the solution. We need a sustainable way of living that does not interfere with peoples beliefs and values.

Living in sustainable ways starts with individual mindset. One thing we have done in the Wicked Problems course at the beginning of every class is meditation. Personally, this has helped me think deeper of the way in which I think about sustainability. Taking the time at the entry of every lesson to calm the mind and think about essentially nothing has helped open up my mind. Since this class is such a late one, I find it helpful to clear my mind of the entire day and leave it behind before I began to open up my thought process to deal with the heavy subjects of this class.

I have learned more about the way in which I prefer to meditate. I enjoy a type of guided meditation. The type in which an instructor will help guide the focus to different spots. They will say “focus on the sounds in the room” or “now pay close attention to how your chest rises and falls as you take each breath.” I prefer these types of meditations because it allows me to not wander off. It allows me to focus in on my own relaxation journey and draw focus onto myself and my environment. This helps with my own personal sustainability journey too! Through weekly meditation, I know pay attention to my surrounding when walking outside. I focus on the way the earth around me looks, and the things I could be doing to improve the planet myself.

Although I have found meditation extremely helpful inside the classroom, I do not believe I will continue practicing once I am finished with this class. At least not in the way we pursue it. Last summer I began practicing yoga regularly. I use yoga as a pause in my day, usually mornings, to relax my mind and focus on my surroundings. I feel as if the way I practice yoga is a for of meditation. Instead of sitting in one spot comfortably and focusing on myself in a seated position, I stretch my body and my muscles and focus on how my body feels during that. I think of my environment and my surroundings as I am practicing intentional breathing through my stretches.

Wicked problems must be a part of the conversation when we are speaking of conserving the planet. We must think if the solutions we have come up with will be accepted by others around the world. We must ask ourselves if we are thinking in a compassionate manner towards differing cultures when coming up with solutions. We must ask ourselves how we can make a difference in our individual lives to thinking of caring for the environment in which we live. If we do not think about all of this at once, we will never find an answer to saving our dying planet.

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