Ecology and the Hierarchy of Needs Print
Monday, 26 February 2007 01:47
Ecology and the Hierarchy of Needs

PEJ News - Richard Walpole - The threat of global warming, or climate change, is making us look closely at how we are meeting our needs. Clean water, clean air, good food, shelter, clothing, family and friends, health and education, work for income, justice and the rule of law, transportation; how we get those needs is being examined with a view to harm reduction. But in 1943, a psychologist named Abraham Maslow postulated that there is, in fact, a hierarchy of needs, and that if a person is trying to fulfill a need at a lower level, needs higher up the scale pretty well have to wait .

I guess we should thank politicians for lying about not looking at polls, since the issue of global warming (GW) is resonating very deeply with an overwhelming majority of us. And they heard that. Right now, there are all kinds of studies floating about, all kinds of interest groups formed long ago or just recently, and the vast majority of the six billion of us pretty well outside the communications loops.

We know there are problems and priorities attached to them, but we have not yet defined the top problem which pulls everything together. And of course we can not find effective solutions until we have defined the problem properly.

While we humans have degraded our environment for thousands of years - the cedars of Lebanon, perhaps the disappearance of big game animals after the last ice age - most of the damage we are causing comes from the industrial revolution which started about 350 years ago.

We developed systems in ignorance of their effects on the planet's other life, and all life, ourselves included, are paying for that. The systems we developed were all to provide goods and services, some of which everyone needs, some of which are luxuries. It is not so much trade, as many contend, which has brought us to this watershed moment: it is our need - and fancy - to consume in order to not just stay alive, but to prosper comfortably.

I think, therefore, that the problem can be defined as consumption or consumerism which keep '"the dark satanic mills" working.

We are launching ourselves into the largest social and environmental engineering project ever, one which redirects all our energies towards different goals from the ones which run a big portion of our activities.

One thing is certain, though. This is going to be a team effort, a very large team, in order to accommodate the changes we need to make. We may have learned a lesson from Katrina and New Orleans - that we cannot leave out of our plans anybody or anything.

Last Updated on Monday, 26 February 2007 01:47