In my next class, we are reading about the interaction between consumerism and energy use. The first step is asking how do wants expand into needs? In the developed world (and especially in America) we consume piles of stuff and explain most if it in terms of our needs.
Economist Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean who teaches at U.C. Berkeley. developed a list of basic needs for humans where ever they may be. These needs are more complex, and more complexly specified than the more familial Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. These needs are non-hierarchical and operate more as an interactive system.
Subsistence – Creation, health, food, shelter skills, work feedback
Protection – security, society
Affection – friendship, family, love
Understanding – curiosity, education
Participation – responsibilities, interaction, community
Leisure – play, fantasy, intimacy, privacy
Creation – skills, work, feedback
Identity – belonging, groups, recognition
Freedom – autonomy, rights, dissent
As humans, we are complex beings, and it only makes sense that our needs are complex. However, these needs are not tied to consumption of goods. And, no matter how much we wish it were so, we cannot purchase that many of them.
How are these achievable? Through community, spirituality, family. Through developing a rich inner life, and that is one of the hardest things to do. These needed become a means as well as an end. Through belonging to a group, I gain responsibilities and friendship. Through developing skills, I gain autonomy and recognition. Focus on any of the higher needs brings about the fulfillment of other needs.
After that, we need to do something even harder – translate these deeply personal needs into something that becomes valued by our greater society. This chart below (from Wikipedia) shows multiple way of achieving those needs. Most do not involve things. Those that do are not necessarily ownable things. More importantly, many of the ways of achieving these needs involve more than one person. And that is what we need – more than one person and that allows personal beliefs to jump forward and become societal values.