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Importance of Survival Skills

Social sustainability: Satisfying human needs

Hi Alex here which human needs do we
have to satisfy to live a sustainable life? Interestingly enough most definitions of
sustainability mention meeting needs the Brundtland Commission of the United
Nations in 1987 defined sustainable development as
development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations to meet their own needs. In a previous video we used natural
science to see that sustainability can be defined as meeting human needs within ecological constraints and one of our four sustainability principles says in a sustainable society people are
not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their
needs so what are these needs? how can they help us become sustainable?
You may be familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs I won’t get into it here but there are
many resources available online if you’re interested and here is another interesting theory
about human needs that was developed by Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef he published in 1991 a book called human scale development demonstrating
that human needs are finite and classifiable; there are nine
fundamental human needs that are constant through all human
cultures and across historical time periods; what changes is the ways these needs are satisfied. So these nine
human needs are: subsistence we need food water
shelter protection we need a safe place to live
social security participation being part of decisions that
affect our life idleness some free time relaxing affection we need friends love understanding learning meditating creation cooking designing inventing identity a sense of belonging knowing oneself and
freedom being able to choose how we live our
lives although these needs are the same than the Romans or the
native people used to have thousands of years ago some of the ways we satisfy say our need
for protection participation or freedom can be very
different today than they were then. While some satisfiers satisfy only one need for example
insurance provides us with protection some satisfy several needs at once for instance breastfeeding satisfies a
baby’s need for subsistence but also protection, affection and
identity these are called synergistic satisfiers Max-Neef also differentiates other types
of satisfiers called destroyers by supposedly satisfying a need they stop us from meeting several others
for example censorship pretends to satisfy our need
for protection but it actually stops us from meeting our
need for understanding participation creation
identity and freedom some are pseudo satisfiers for example fashion and trends can
generate a false sense of identity and finally Max-Neef also organized
satisfiers in four categories being having doing and interacting depending on how we satisfy our needs so
how is this helpful to become sustainable? first when working towards reducing and
eventually eliminating our contribution to conditions that
systematically undermine people’s ability to meet their needs we now have a framework to organize our
thinking we can scrutinize our activities products and services through the lens
of these nine human needs and associated satisfiers, pseudo-satisfiers and destroyers secondly when looking for
ways to improve or replace an unsustainable practice we can step back and take a different perspective: why is
this product here in the first place which needs does it satisfy? can we
satisfy these needs as well or even better with a
different product or service? for example a music festival gathers tens
of thousands of people who join to meet their needs for
participation idleness creation and identity. Can we invent a
totally different way to meet the same needs with fewer carbon emissions due to
transportation and less impact on the local ecosystems
just asking the question opens a whole new way of thinking. Can we invent new ways to satisfy our needs for identity and freedom that do not require buying and consuming
so much stuff? Can we imagine other ways to satisfy
our need for idleness that do not require flying halfway around the world and intruding on other people’s culture
and land? when we do find a sustainable satisfier can we improve it to make it a synergistic satisfier and
meet several needs at once with the same amount of resources? at the end of the day being sustainable
is about meeting our needs within ecological constraints and Manfred Max-Neef’s human needs can
be very useful to find ways to satisfy needs using
fewer resources they provide a new lens and help us take
another look at the system we’re trying to change which is crucial to stimulate innovation
and to avoid superficial problem solving if you’re interested in reading more
about this the book human scale development is available as a free PDF online the
link is in the description below you can find all our engaging sustainability
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