Characterising sustainability as a “super-wicked” problem alerts us to issues beyond where current thinking about problem structuring enables engineers to deal with the merely wicked. Time is running out, no-one authority is in control, we are the cause of the problem anyway, and we inherently discount the future in our every day decision-making. When these are added to the usual definitions of wicked and messy problems, which only now are we addressing in engineering education, what are the potential limits and opportunities for the methodology of engineering in sustainability? Some modest extrapolations are discussed, based on the results from a recent research project in addressing energy planning in a city development zone. Analysis from another case study is also presented, which provides some triangulation of the ideas developed in this paper.
- super-wicked problems
- messy problems
- problem structuring methods (PSMs)
- engineering education