Just Us Against the World (and the wicked problems that face it)

Throughout the past couple months, I have been able to take part in a class known as Wicked Problems of the Industrial Practice, and this essentially was where I began my sustainability journey. Before taking this class I had a limited knowledge of the “wicked problems” that face our everyday lives, and even to the extent of what a “wicked problem” really is. After a brief introduction, I discovered what a “wicked problem” is, and that is defined as a problem facing a society or culture that cannot be distinctly solved without leading to other issues. These problems can be a multitude of things that face society and culture such as educational opportunities, hunger, poverty, sustainability, and so many more. Within sustainability alone, there are many wicked problems that have arisen. Some of these include but are not limited to pollution in air, land, and water, and other issues such as climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity in certain areas, and water scarcity in communities. These are just a few of the issues that I have learned so far on my journey towards sustainability. It has honestly  been really eye opening to learn about problems facing the world and even in my own community that I had no idea about. All of these problems are very real issues that people and communities struggle with on a daily basis and it has been very educational to learn about these issues and the ways that people have tried to not only approach these issues, but also how they have tried to fix them. The issue with these problems, and the reason that they are known as wicked problems is that these problems have no distinct answer and can be viewed by different people in different ways.

This being said, wicked problems have many viewpoints from different people, therefore making them very complex. To every wicked problem, there are people that agree that it is a problem, some of these people propose ways to solve these problems, others only acknowledge it as an issue without a way to fix it. On the other hand, with every wicked problem, there are also people that do not necessarily acknowledge that it is a problem, and others that acknowledge that it is a problem but do not want to propose a change due to economic benefits or other things. Each problem has multiple sides. Fashion, for example, can be looked at in many ways. Fashion as a whole is not inherently bad, however, there are issues that arise from the industry, but in the same light there are successes that come from it as well. Depending on who you talk to about issues in the fashion industry, there are a multitude of opinions and viewpoints. In relation to the production of fashion items, one of the biggest problems, or at least in my opinion, is the use of sweatshops for the production of items. While this is a problem across the world, we can see it in our own country as well. Sweatshops are quite obviously an issue of morality due to the treatment of the people working within these sweatshops and the horrible conditions they work in. However, due to the nature of growing industry and need for supply and demand, these sweatshops have become a way of life not only for some of the people working in them, but also for the leaders of the industry. While some of these capitalists acknowledge the issues behind these sweatshops, to them, there are more benefits, including cheap, fast labor, and quicker supply for rising demands. This is just one of the many wicked problems and how they can be seen differently by many people.

Is there a way to solve these problems? Well, like discussed earlier, the main issue is that people do not necessarily agree on the basis of the problems. Many people realize it is a problem however, due to the benefits in the economy that come from these productions, people tend to lean more towards the side of the rewards rather than to be blamed for the issues. Since these “wicked problems” seem to have no end, how are we supposed to help? One of the biggest ways to help fight these wicked problems that I have learned throughout this class is understanding the importance of mindfulness. Mindfulness has been found to be a very good tool in helping to promote and reach sustainability. Mindfulness by definition is being fully aware of one’s own thoughts and actions as well as the environment that surrounds them. Mindfulness in relation to the environment is being aware of what is going on around you and realizing that you have a bigger role in society than just yourself. When we are aware of what is going on in the world around us, we tend to be more open to making choices that in turn will affect the environment positively,  essentially bettering it, not only for ourselves, but others. Mindfulness can be achieved through many different things, but one of the best ways I have personally found the most helpful is meditation. Meditation is essentially the process of being still and putting yourself in the position to acknowledge what is going on around you and connecting how you feel and your emotions to what is going on around you. When we are able to calm our minds and tune into the world around us, we are more inline with and more open to how to make changes to the environment. As we take part in meditation, we engage all of our senses and are then able to fully be part of what is going on in our lives whether we are a part of it or not. If we take just a small amount of time to calm ourselves and reflect on our lives, we can become more able to see the bigger issues.

For most of my life, I had a limited knowledge on what it actually meant to be sustainable and working towards being environmentally friendly. It has not been until recently that I really understood what it was to make a bigger effort to be sustainable. With taking this class, I have been able to educate myself on the issues facing the world and just how important people like you and me are in making a difference in the environment. I have since learned that everything we do has an impact on the environment and we need to not only be aware of our effect on the planet, but also we need to make a conscious effort to help fight these problems we create. Through educating myself and learning to be more mindful, I have realized what it truly means to be more sustainable and what sustainability in society is. Humans have always had a great impact on the environment, and industrial practices have brought the health of the world down. By realizing how much we impact the earth and the environment both negatively and positively, we can help be the change needed to better the world. The health of the world is only in what we make it and by being mindful of the issues going on in the world, we can realize that we are the ones that can make a difference in the world, even if we feel unimportant in the grand scheme of things. 

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