Wicked Problems – Infrastructure – Quality vs. Quantity with Tony Pratte 


We have some tremendous wicked problems in our society right now!

Wicked problems are how we describe some of today’s most challenging social issues. They call for us to reframe our notion of success because they may never get fully solved. Being successful with wicked problems means making a difference toward them, improving the outcomes, or reducing the risk. 

Today, we are diving into the wicked problem of infrastructure. 

I’m Marla, the Green Home Coach! My co-host, Tony Pratte, and I are recording live at Shock City Studios in St. Louis, Missouri!


Infrastructure is critical to our growth and progress as a society and how we transport water, people, and things. Newer cities in the US tend to have fewer problems with their infrastructure than some of the older cities in the eastern part of the country.

Old cities

St. Louis is one of the oldest cities in the United States. In most of the world’s older cities, we find bits and pieces that show us aspects of what the infrastructure used to be like in the past. 

St. Louis 

Many things come into play in St. Louis. It was founded in 1764, so it was around even before the United States of America. It is situated where east meets west in the United States and still holds that heritage. It also has different weather and cultural patterns.

The infrastructure of St. Louis

Parts of the infrastructure of St. Louis date back to 1764, and we don’t even know where much of it is. Several years ago, the foundation for a new high-rise got dug in the central-west end of the city, and they had to stop when they came across a hundred-plus-year-old water shoreline that nobody knew anything about.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act 

The infrastructure needed to run our country and the built environment are very tightly linked. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is being looked at right now. There has been a lot of discussion about what infrastructure entails. Some interpretations are that infrastructure includes roads, buildings, the electric grid, and the services that enable people to connect and cities to work. 

The infrastructure for a house

The infrastructure required for a house is immense! It includes sewers, storm-water systems, the electrical grid, internet, cable, gas, roads, fire hydrants, water, and more. The entire home infrastructure gets attached to a regional infrastructure provided by a company or organization, and then that gets tied into the national infrastructure. 

Three electric grids

There are three electric grids in the United States. They are west of the Rockies, east of the Rockies, and in Texas. A lot of management goes on in the different power pools that most of us know nothing about! 

Energy transitions

Energy transitions need to happen slowly to avoid losing any potential generation.  

Physical infrastructure

Many discussions lately have been about how money gets allocated for building new physical infrastructure. Yet the existing infrastructure has not necessarily been well maintained. An example is the hundreds of bridges throughout the country that need repairs. 

Political leaders

One of the reasons our infrastructure has reached a point where so much is in disrepair is that our political leaders seem to find it better to build new infrastructure instead of repairing what we already have. 

Revitalizing Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City has a project to revitalize the city called the Maps Project. It is now in its fourth round. 


We need the budget to maintain everything that gets built in our cities. Campaigns to raise capital funds are possible, but not for operating expenses. How we fund projects, and stock prices, are both parts of the problem.

Municipal meetings

One solution is to go to municipal meetings and speak out about any repairs or maintenance that needs to get done. There are also open forums where citizens can hear about the plans, how the money gets allocated, and voice their opinions.


We have a strong we versus us mentality in this country, and we tend to see our government as separate from ourselves. We should realize that the people running our country are our representatives, not our leaders.

Taking responsibility  

We need to tie our personal experience into the responsibility of asking our government representatives to be accountable for the way our infrastructure gets maintained. That means we have to be persistent when we ask them to do something and let them know that we will only vote for them if they take full responsibility for everything that has to get done.


Sustainability means that we can move into the future. 

Controlling the infrastructure

Municipalities control much of our infrastructure daily, and organizations and companies control much of the infrastructure on a regional or national basis. Both of those matter, so they need to be addressed. They also need to connect.

A master plan

St. Louis municipalities need a master plan to speed up the creation of infrastructure for new developments and upgrade the existing infrastructure. 

Three prominent issues

We have three prominent issues with our infrastructure:

  1. Fixing what we already have.
  2. New structures need to get built better.
  3. We must think ahead about the additional infrastructure that we need to grow.


Maintenance is a crucial part of keeping anything built in the best possible shape. It is the same with infrastructure. 

Get involved

It can sometimes be hard to get involved with bigger issues. For many of us, it is easier to get involved locally, so show up at a city planning meeting. It will be worth showing up because your community and future may be affected.

Have a great green day!



What Makes a Green Home Green Audio Program

Wicked Problem Definition 

Delivering on the Promise of Federal Infrastructure Funds in States 

Infrastructure Topics on GreenBiz 

Strong Towns 101 

EPA Green Infrastructure