A wicked problem is one that worsens when subjected to contemporary or traditional solutions.
Here in Shepparton we were comfortably geographically remote from the hitherto unseen bushfires in Queensland, but metaphorically living next door in a climate-changed world.
The fires that were unquestionably aggravated by our disrupted climate system, and many even say ‘‘caused’’.
The solution, interestingly, was to fly firefighters and equipment in from all around the country using fossil-fuelled energy sources that further enrich the damage caused by a conflagration with their direct links to climate change.
And so the fires caused by climate change — not at all, according to the business-as-usual brigade, or almost totally in the minds of climate-change advocates — fell directly into the ‘‘wicked’’ realm as in fighting them, that’s the solution, we added significantly to Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Let’s accept for a moment we are facing a wicked problem (we are), but that is rather difficult to grasp here in Shepparton as life appears okay, beyond, that is, a striking absence of rain and severe temperatures.
The Goulburn Valley has fortunately avoided, certainly of late, the headline-grabbing climate-change-driven events that has brought catastrophes to many communities throughout Australia, and the world.
Writing in Defiant Earth: The fate of humans in the Anthropocene the Australian author and public intellectual Clive Hamilton said: ‘‘The greatest tragedy is the absence of a sense of the tragedy’’.
The Professor of Public Ethics at Canberra’s Charles Sturt University, said: ‘‘The indifference of most to the Earth system’s disturbance may be attributed to a failure of reason or psychological weaknesses; but these seem inadequate to explain why we find ourselves on the edge of the abyss.’’
Interestingly as some sort of hint, the America news website has said that: ‘‘It’s almost easier to despair or to will oneself into ignorance than to begin to grapple with the future’’.
During a recent discussion it was suggested that the way ahead, the way to deal with this wicked problem, was to embrace meekness, an idea that contradicts the essence of the capitalist economic system that champions aggression.
And turning again to Clive Hamilton, he points out that the forces we hoped would make the world a more civilised place — personal freedoms, democracy, material advance, technological power — are in truth paving the way to its destruction.
Albert Einstein’s suggestion that madness was doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result seems to equate with the solution to the Queensland fires — using fossil fuel-powered devices to solve a problem caused by a disrupted climate system that has been primarily unsettled by humans dumping excess amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
A Yale professor of law and psychology, Dan Kahan, says climate change had become a symbol of whose side you are on in a ‘‘cultural conflict divorced from science’’.
That adds to the wickedness of the problem and so one solution is the immediate change in our behaviours to encourage adaptation, along with a more restrained way of living.
Rob McLean is a former News editor.