About "vital need"

Barbara's picture

Carolyn Merchant’s ideas made me optimistic about the global ecological revolution needed for sustainability. Even though the notion was to be radical, it was not extreme at all, which I found really convincing and feasible. Merchant was fairly considerate about the normal living need of human’s. She did not proposed that people should stop using natural resources, but suggested that we should raise ecological consciousness and moderately fulfill our needs. “Vital need” is my term of the week. I love this term for a lot of reasons. With this term, I can feel that human-beings are not isolated from the non-human parts of the world. We depend on those other parts to survive. The term also set a standard for justified utilization of resources. However, how do people define “vital” differs.  For ancient mankind, “vital” purely meant survival of the species. Nowadays, people have developed need other than material resources. If traveling is one most important parts of life for someone, is the consumption fossil fuel justified as “vital”? The need for survival is met in a majority of the human population. How do we define “vital needs” in such circumstances? This is something perplexing to me when I was reading the article. But I did find some clues to this question in the article. Merchant mentioned we need to let nature reverse ecological damage. This may be a standard we could use when setting up the limit of exploitation of nature. However, human have to be able to think holistically when calculating the outcome of our actions. This requires ecological thinking. Another signal of the fact that we are taking more than for vital needs is when we turn resources to commodity.  Before the scientific revolution few hundred years ago, we did not have the capacity to overexploit natural resources at all.  With advanced technology, people are producing more than they need for survival. Therefore, we turned the resources for self-sustainability to commodities, which circulate in an economic environment that we created ourselves. As Merchant says frankly, ecology is not consistent as a subject. The practical purpose is to waken people’s ecological consciousness. I appreciate ecologists’ courage to admit the flaw in their studies. It is a meaningful process to think about to what extent we should be using natural resources and reestablish relationship between human and non-human environment.

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