There is nothing I as an individual can do to make an impact on the wicked problems of the world: this is the primary paradigm I was set in before I began my mindfulness journey. From my earliest memories I can recall that the global issues have been prevalent and ongoing, from the oil spills that leaked into the ocean in 2010 to the emphasis on discontinuing emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. I even remember cartoon commercials encouraging kids to recycle and take care of the Earth. With that being said, I have pretty much remained conscious of my “carbon footprint” and impact on the planet since I was a child. I can remember my mom, my grandparents and I used to collect and haul massive trash bags full of aluminum cans to the recycling center, because I wanted to lessen our trash impact. But as I got into high school my consciousness developed into more of an anxious looming fear. With all the constant amounts of pollution, waste, and gas emissions destroying our environment every day, I began to think that my small environmentally friendly choices were doing little to nothing for the overall benefit of the environment. Thus, while my love for helping the environment existed, so did my negative doubts about if I was contributing towards the positive change.
When I first began this course, I was not expecting to broaden my understanding of the global issues happening today. I believe that often when sustainability is discussed, the solutions may seem out of reach because they require dedicated time. Beginning the course with The Eleventh-Hour film was an effective way of illustrating how the global issues of consumption and waste became such a critical and urgent issue. Through this film I was able to gain a new perspective on how environmental issues are directly related to cultural beliefs and thinking. I coincidentally am enrolled in an economy course at the same time I am taking this course, so it clicked in my mind when I was able to hear that nature itself is looked upon as property lacking rights. This paradigm shift was monumental in my head. I believe the same revolutionary rights movements that have taken place throughout history must occur to eliminate the exploitation of this planet. Additionally, I learned the true history of the Easter Islands, which is another experience that enlightened my understandings of wicked problems and how they must be addressed. Prior to learning that the people inhabiting the island used their limited resources until life could no longer be sustained, I had merely known there were giant statues on Easter Island. I found it quite alarming how similar their history is to the behavior we are seeing in our society today. Both lessons were eye-opening reassurers that our global issues cannot be left untouched for later generations to deal with. This excuse I frequently hear when it pertains to environmental issues is only quickening the process of destroying our planet.
Once there was no denying the urgency to take actions on consumption and waste, I was eager to begin learning about mindfulness. As I mentioned before, mindfulness has consistently been important to me for as long as I can remember, even beyond global issues. I believe mindfulness to be self-power, so I have implemented meditations and mindfulness practices for the last couple of years. When I was able to connect overall mindfulness with creating an environmentally friendly change, almost instantly the solutions for lessening consumption became tangible. This experience was by far the most affecting paradigm change I have had in this course thus far. I further explored the complexity of the wicked problems, such as how variable problems must be critically evaluated to arrive at unique approaches. The main example that compelled me to employ my mindfulness practices into my daily choices is consumerism encouraging consumption. With all the advertising and social media influence constantly being shown to us, it can be easy to fall into a wasteful consumption lifestyle. In my own experiences, I have been extremely vulnerable to fashion influences. As it is having been advertised to us for decades, I would feel the need or desire to redo my entire wardrobe, consuming mass amounts of clothing that 70% of was being wasted. I now have implemented a two-week rule for myself that if I see or want a piece of clothing, I am planning to wait for two weeks before I purchase it so that I have ample amount of time to process if the garment is essential or ultimately a waste. I’ve learned it will be small yet impactful changes that will start the revolution of a sustainable society and norms.
From my new understandings of wicked problems, I believe that our culture’s beliefs and norms can become more sustainable focused. It will be small, mindful changes and habits that allow an imperative shift in our culture’s thinking from disconnect to nature and to mindfulness of the effect we have on Earth. I think many people share the looming anxiety that we as humans are causing irreversible damage to the environment, but it is this anxiety that is keeping them from acting towards solution. Since I have experienced this paradigm shift and gained an understanding of critically evaluating wicked problems, I think that mindfulness is the leading practice towards a sustainable future. Without mindful practices, it can be too effortless to fall back into the lures of consumerism and continue to add to the wickedness of these environmental issues we are facing. But once the enlightenment of mindfulness exhibits to you your true needs, it becomes easier to remain sustainable than wasteful.
Comprehensively, I have obtained the tools and skills to respond to wicked problems. Having the knowledge of how to deeply dive into how a problem presents itself in various perspectives to then arrive at a multi-faceted solution has compelled me to tackle the global wicked issues that we must address. My paralyzing fear that my environmentally friendly actions have no real impact has blossomed into confidence to act towards a sustainable revolution in our society. I know that with my continued mindful practices and passion to spread the knowledge about wicked problems, we can create virtuous solutions. Ultimately, the greatest lesson I have gained from mindfulness is optimism – hope that we will create a sustainable present for a sustainable future.