I’ve heard the phrase ‘wicked problems’ a bit recently. The term is not new, but it has seemed to crop up more frequently lately, probably due to the climate change talks in Paris. This time it hooked me and I looked into it. Specifically, I thought that it might have potential for framing issues of weeds and invasive species – ‘Wicked Weeds’, seemed like a catchy tagline.
Wicked problems are termed so because they are difficult to frame and difficult to solve. They are slippery and dynamic; entangled in a web of social, cultural, political, economic and environmental interdependencies.
Naturally, most reading this blog would recognise that weeds and invasive species fit this wicked framework perfectly. But the more I engaged the term and the literature that uses it, the more ridiculous it seemed, and the more frustrated I became.
Sure, weeds are wicked problems, but what problem isn’t? If a problem wasn’t wicked, wouldn’t it just be solved and no longer be a problem? What does this ‘wicknedness’ add?
In my brief review of wicked literature I found discussions of nuclear weapons, poverty, desertification, AIDS, and of course climate change – which I discovered has recently graduated from wicked to ‘super-wicked’.
I found nothing on weeds but it’s probably out there, or at least on its way.
I could throw energy at framing weeds as wicked in an effort to be novel and perhaps even get something published, but would it actually represent anything different? Would it tell us anything novel? Perhaps calling a problem wicked highlights its complexity and its entanglement within a range of issues, but any decent analysis or scholarship should highlight this. Right?
Either way, I’m off to coin a clever phrase.