My Experiences in Wicked Problems

Kierstin Pigg

Sustainability and ethical shopping are things I have always cared about and had an interest in, but before this class, I had never known how to live sustainability and what affects sustainability and our climate. Taking this class has shown me what types of things affect our climate and how we, as consumers, can stop unethical practices, specifically in the fashion industry. 

One thing I learned from this class that I will always take with me is the art of mindfulness. I am not a particularly religious or spiritual person so thinking about meditation and mindfulness was a new concept for me. When we first did meditation in class, I could immediately tell a difference which was something really cool for me. Also, through the articles we have read, I have learned how being mindful can help us lead more sustainable lives. Mindfulness helps calm our brains and bodies. When we can calm all the craziness that we experience, we can actually shift our focus from being stressed to other things in life. Mindfulness has been proven to help with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. These mental illnesses take up a lot of space, energy, and time to the people that have them and to people who just feel stressed or sad. By using mediation as a way to help with stress, we have now opened up a whole new set of energy and time that may have been previously occupied by whatever was causing said stress. With this newfound freedom and time, we can focus and dedicate our lives to mindfulness, which in return, means we can dedicate ourselves to sustainability.  Because of mindfulness, I feel like I have even just a little bit of extra space to focus on things that I want tp focus on, instead of being consumed with my fears and sadness. This, in return, lets me lead a happier and healthier lifestyle. 

Another thing I learned in class was compassionate curiosity. This was interesting to me because I felt like it fell in line with some of my personal values and I was determined to practice compassionate curiosity. Compassionate curiosity is the ability to search for deeper information without judgment, as well as, being able to identify a person’s thoughts or feelings. By using this process, we can respectfully and intentionally learn about ourselves as well as our environment and the impact we have on our environment. An example of compassionate curiosity could be understanding another person’s culture, and how said cultural attributes help sustainability. For example, some cultures do not eat meat. It is argued that the meat processing industry is a huge contributor to climate change. By living and engaging in this culture, people are actively helping the climate. This helps us look past the prejudice and judgment that is so prevalent in our society, and actually start seeing people and circumstances for what they really are. Judgment is an inevitable part of life and can really hinder our relationships with others and ourselves. By using and understanding compassionate curiosity, we can help mend the bridge between different cultures and people groups and hopefully finally come to an understanding and plan on how to improve the environment. Learning about compassionate curiosity has helped me look at my relationship with others and how I interact with others differently. 

We also learned about the wicked problems of our world and how they attribute to sustainability and our climate. Wicked problems are large problems with multiple layers to each issue. These problems usually do not have just one answer and take multiple steps and time to solve. An example of this would be sweatshops. Sweatshops were really common, especially towards the end of the 20th century but are still very much active in today’s society. I had of course heard of the horrors of sweatshops but had never really understood how bad they were until I did my team’s infographic over them. While researching this infographic, we learned that most sweatshop workers are forced to work between 14-16 hours a day. With these hours, they still only make around $8 a day because they get paid as little as .5 cents an hour. Along with unfair pay, the work conditions of sweatshops in unimaginable. Employees are always at risk for multiple diseases and injuries because of the conditions of sweatshops. Employees are especially vulnerable to disease because of practices like “sandblasting.” Sandblasting is the process of channeling fine sand into an air gun and then spraying said sand at high pressure onto denim. This is a technique frequently used to make jeans look worn. This process can lead to fatal respiratory diseases. There have also been fires in many sweatshops. These can be due to a multitude of reasons such as faulty equipment, poor fire codes, and just accidents. Unfortunately, these fires are common in sweatshops and have claimed a number of lives. This problem is considered a wicked problem because there is no clear solution. Sure we can try to place regulations and safety protocols, but the real issue is a lot of people are thankful for the work sweatshops provide. For some people, 3 cents an hour is the best they can do. With people having no other choice than to stay and work in these conditions, the cycle of sweatshops continues.

Lastly, a new thing I have learned from this class is the cap-and-trade process as well as pollution taxes. The cap-and-trade is a government protocol where the government actually puts a cap on the amount of carbon and pollution companies are allowed to produce. Pollution taxes are taxes that the government puts on companies if they exceed a certain limit of carbon emissions. Typically, cap-and-trade programs are more effective than pollution taxes because, if a company is big enough, they can just pay the tax and keep producing carbon and pollution which is the opposite of what we are trying to do. 

In conclusion, I have learned a lot of interesting and insightful information from that class. I really enjoyed taking this class because we discussed issues I am already passionate about. I got to dive deeper into these topics and really learn how we as a society affect the climate and also how we can change it. This class has given to tools and knowledge to hopefully educate other people. I think that people need to take a climate crisis a lot more seriously. I think people have a tendency to brush it off and live in denial but we can’t do that much longer. If we don’t get our heads out of the sand too, we won’t have a planet to call home. This class has given to tools and knowledge to hopefully educate other people.

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