Before I started Wicked Problems, I had a basic understanding of the increasing environmental degradation and sustainability issues, but these issues weren’t things I thought about frequently. This class opened my eyes to the vast problems we currently face on this planet, and I now understand the true meaning of a “wicked” problem. None of the issues we discussed in the class had a simple fix, and the more I learned about each problem, the more complex and frustrating they became. Initially, my approach to each problem was that most people had their own opinion on how it should be fixed, but they weren’t taking action because there is widespread disagreement. This is true in specific scenarios, but that’s not necessarily true for a wicked problem. I now understand that a problem is wicked because when a solution is discussed, there will most likely be other factors that disadvantage or damage another vital part of our society. For example, when talking about sweatshops in the fashion industry, many people believe they should be abolished due to the harsh working conditions and abuse the workers face. This solution has flaws, as in developing countries, sweatshops are large sources of employment and are beneficial to the economy. Abolishing sweatshops would decrease the amount of harsh labor in these countries, but it would also diminish employment opportunities and influence product sales from that country, affecting all other countries that rely on the developing country for products. This made me realize that most people don’t have a set opinion on wicked problems, as they are often too complex to believe one way is the correct way. I now can take a step back when analyzing a problem to understand the complete concept before making a decision. This is also provided to me through the mindfulness exercises from class, as it takes patience and perspective to understand different points of view on important issues. Sometimes, people become passionate about finding solutions to these problems because they don’t understand the total capacity of how it will affect other aspects of society, which was how I approached things before this class. Now that I am mindful of different perspectives that I may not even know exist, I can further understand the issue and its depth.
This course not only outlined the extremely wicked problems in our current society, but it also gave me knowledge about how they come about and who is responsible. It’s impossible to blame a single person or company for a wicked problem, such as the preservation of environmental degradation, but there are sometimes large contributors that account for much of the issue and its deficits. In terms of environmental degradation, almost everyone on this planet contributes in one way or another, whether it’s throwing trash out the window or using gas in your car. This doesn’t mean that every person on Earth is equally responsible, though, as a small number of international businesses contribute to the majority of this degradation. If you look at the news today, many global research scientists believe this planet will not last for the next generation, and the environmental degradation is irreversible. There are even scientists who protest outside of government buildings and businesses that contribute to the degradation, as they want to gain media coverage to spread awareness about sustainability. However, media coverage is lacking these protests, as large businesses don’t want to lose money due to sustainability measures. This is an interesting time to live through, as people are more concerned than ever about our environmental impact, and it has become a massive concern within society. Despite all this, there is still an increasing amount of degradation in different ways, growing rapidly and permanently killing our planet. Not only do businesses contribute to degradation with pollution and the use of fossil fuels, but the products sold in today’s market are meant to last a short period for the consumer to have to buy a new one. This marketing strategy is excellent for businesses and their profit but horrible for the environment and the amount of waste we humans create each year. There is trash everywhere, in the ocean and in the air, and it will remain on the Earth long after we put it there. Since learning about the shortening of product lifespan in this class, I’ve become much more aware of what I spend money on and the choices I make when shopping. It’s become much more important to me that I use reusable dishes and water bottles, drive less, and turn my car’s engine off when I’m not driving. These things are minor impacts on our planet’s climate, but I want to do anything to reduce waste and overconsumption. I make an effort to educate my friends when they buy from stores that contribute to pollution and sweatshops, especially those that sell products in mass quantities for extremely low prices. I understand that it’s difficult to blame any person or company for a wicked problem, which is why it’s crucial for each and every person to make an effort towards sustainability. Although there are brands that contribute to fast fashion, there are also consumers who overconsume and contribute as well, which essentially makes both parties equally responsible for degradation.
Sustainability has been a difficult thing for humans to achieve since the beginning of time, and there is a large disconnection between the care people have for the earth and its resources compared to the care they have for making money and growing businesses. Previously, I understood that there’s a large amount of pollution on the earth affecting our natural resources, but I didn’t pay attention to how critical overpopulation has become in the past few decades. The human population grows exponentially, which has inevitably led us to where we are now, struggling to find resources and space for the rapidly increasing number of people. This issue has led to overconsumption and overproduction of goods that aren’t quality, which has a highly negative impact on the environment. Scientists had predicted these types of issues long ago, but it’s challenging to have an entire planet full of people listen to you and agree to make a change in their lives. I genuinely hope that there are considerable measures taken toward the prevention of environmental degradation in the next few years, as it is unfair to future generations and their lives. Our human culture has become completely centered around money and economies instead of the ground we build our businesses and homes on and the only planet we will ever have to live on. I believe the most important thing for humans to do now is to simply look up. We need to look up from our daily work and tasks and look up to the world around us. Before entering this class, I never frequently thought about environmental degradation and my impact on the world, as not many other people talked or cared about it either. Now that I understand the state of our planet and the direction that we’re headed, I wish I would’ve paid more attention sooner. Every person on Earth is responsible, and I hope that soon we all realize our personal impact on the Earth and how we can improve it.