Wicked Problems All Around

Most people care about the Earth and its environment in some way, shape, or form. They want animals and humans to coexist and to live safe, happy, and healthy lives. The only issue with caring about the environment is not everyone is aware of things that can cause harm. This does not just mean littering. This includes animal cruelty, fast fashion, and other unsustainable lifestyles that many insist on being apart of. The only way to effectively get society to stop causing all these wicked problems is to properly educate everyone and open their eyes to the issues. I have always been passionate about climate change and recycling and how everything ties together economically and socially but I never realized that I am a huge contributor to the problem before I started taking this course. 

Before I began attending my Wicked Problems class, I assumed I lived a generally sustainable life. I do not litter, I am not cruel to animals, and I do not shop from stores like Forever 21 and Rue 21. I thought I knew just about everything, but I was incredibly wrong. Even though I do not shop often and when I do shop I stay away from obvious fast fashion and I hold on to the items I purchase for a long time, I am guilty of buying cheaper items rather than spending more on a quality piece. For example, I bought two pairs of leggings in August 2021 and they already started pilling and developed holes in them by January 2022. At the time of purchasing them I was not in the Wicked Problems class yet but I should have known better to buy more expensive, good quality leggings that would last me longer than six months. It was a waste of money, labor, and material and I will have to throw them away because the material is not salvageable nor can the leggings be repaired. I also drive a car that runs on gas, and I eat meat, and do not always pay attention to what things are made of or where they come from. 

I think the part of sustainability that resonates with me the most is how it affects everyone economically. Wealthy people make these sustainable lifestyles seem so easy and attainable and that is simply not true. For example, veganism is great even though realistically I will probably never stop eating meat but if I wanted to, it would be difficult to get the nutrition that I need simply because of where I live and how much money I make. Living in a landlocked state that has four seasons makes it difficult to access fresh produce year round because it will not grow in the winter and it is expensive to buy from out of state due to shipping costs. Another example would be my vehicle. I drive an eco boost car so it is not as bad as a diesel truck would be but it is not perfect either. I can not afford to purchase a newer car that is electric or hybrid like a wealthy person could. I also could not walk or ride a bike everywhere because I do not live in a walkable city, or even state for that matter. There is also the guilt of using nonrenewable resources for energy. It is obviously better to use solar power, wind power, and hydroelectricity but the reality of the situation is that those methods can be expensive to install and those energy sources are not always available depending on where you live. We can not expect everyone to pitch in the same amount of help for the environment. I think it is problematic to continue encouraging the lower tax brackets to be vegan, stop using straws and stop using gas cars when the wealthy are always buying new clothes and jetting around the world in private planes and corporations are polluting the environment. We would be better off if we made things more accessible for lower income individuals so we could all start making good decisions and permanent changes. 

The second part of sustainability that I really relate to is how wicked problems affect us socially. Things like buying locally from artisans is really good for our communities and I am just as guilty as the next person for buying from malls or online rather than buying from places right in the town that I live in. It helps create and hold local jobs, helps connect everyone better, and can support the local economy because everything with sustainability ties in together.

While taking this class, I have become more mindful of my actions outside the classroom. I have been carpooling with my friends and walking when necessary. I have been thrifting and yard selling more recently because second hand clothing is more sustainable for me to purchase economically and ecologically. It will be cheaper for me and I am giving those items a second life and they will most likely last longer because they have already lasted long enough for one person to use it. I have been eating more from grocery stores rather than fast food and I even try to stay away from things with excessive packaging on them as all that plastic starts to pile up. I am not sure what I did differently with my trash but I have noticed that my trash can has been piling up slower than usual. 

Even though it can be hard to be more sustainable when you have a smaller income, especially as a college student, it is possible. It is all about little changes here and there if that is all you can manage. I think the big huge changes are up to the governments and the corporations and it is our job to protest when necessary and to speak out as much as we can. In the meantime, we all need to make those little changes and when possible, the big ones too. The only issue is we have to get everyone in on it before it is too late. It is still possible to turn things around.

My experience in this course has been nothing but positive and I am satisfied with what I have learned and what I will be taking away from it. I do have a newfound anxiety from this course as I have been thinking very deeply about the everyday actions of myself and everyone around me. Sometimes, the wicked problems in the world can make me feel helpless because I am not a part of the elite nor am I a powerful leader and what I say usually does not matter to those who are. I think a good example of anxiety inducing helplessness right now is the war between Russia and Ukraine. There is a chance of a nuclear powerplant exploding that would be ten times as devastating as Chernobyl because Russia decided to bomb the buildings near it. If this happens it would not only be devastating physically, emotionally, and economically for the entirety of Europe. It would affect the entire world in irreversible ways and far sooner than I think anyone expected. 

Disaster aside, I have been preaching to my friends to recycle and I have encouraged them to join me in thrift shopping and we have been doing all the little things that we are capable of as college students in Oklahoma. I am glad I took this course and was given the opportunity to learn what I have.

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