Mike Sliwa points out the consequences we face when we confuse our needs with our wants.
Lately it seems to me I’ve been having conversations about the difference between wants and needs. Those of us living in the industrial technological age have clearly been taught that a want is in fact a need. The problem with this confusion is having a devastating effect on our planet and in our lives. So to clear things up let’s take a look at the difference between wants and a needs:
A home Something to maintain core body temperature
Running water Water
Fossil fuels A decent non-human community
Grocery stores Food
Automobiles A decent human community
A home is something we want. Being protected from the elements is something we need. Water coming out of our taps is something we want. Securing safe drinking water is something we need. Fossil fuels are something we want because they allow us to gain access to a large variety of things including food, water and shelter. Having a decent non-human (plants and animals) community that supports us and our well-being is a need. Grocery stores are a want. Being able to acquire or create food is a need. Automobiles are a want. Having a decent communal community is a need.
Now I’m not suggesting that we all go live back in caves with fire torches but I am suggesting that we are so far removed from what a need actually is that our wants have taken priority and as a result taken control of our lives. Today we make a living. We do this because we no longer have the skill set to remain alive without the assistance of fossil fuels. Even if we replace fossil fuels with other energy sources that won’t change the fact that we will still lack the skills to be self-reliant and remain dependent upon big energy. Why is this a problem? Simply because our wants require oppression, violence and the destruction of the world in order to keep our sect (industrial humans) of humanity alive. Our living arrangement is costing lives and will cost us our own if we maintain this irrational behavior.
We use an enormous amount of resources to build our homes, bring water into our cities, move food to our stores, and create transportation to make a living and to retrieve these goods and services. We live under this very existence because of the fossil fuel bonanza that we’ve been experiencing for nearly two centuries. The result of this fuel fiesta is a planet on the verge of environmental collapse.
Unfortunately, cars, cell phones, microwaves and countless other products and items have in fact become needs. Many of us would be lost without them. Our dependency upon them is what’s driving the machine that’s devouring the biosphere which not only provides for our lives but for every living organism.
What we do with the time we have matters. It matters because our wants can be replaced again by our needs. Moving away from large propped up systems so we can enjoy a life of connection and discovery is something to consider. After all, we can proceed voluntarily or be dragged kicking and screaming. Nature finds a way. We are part of nature. Will we find a way?
–Photo: Big Grey Mare/Flickr