Where do you place yourself in the world? On, within, along side, or above it? Subtle distinctions, but understanding this could change everything.
Industrialisation for instance seems to be above nature. As people began to create beyond the limits we previously imagined, people became all that mattered. Perhaps we even replaced God this way. When we are above nature and all else we either do not need God, or if you look at some of the egotistical, maybe we have become God (and not in the Nietzschean sense).
Our needs pre-Modernity were driven by nature. Food, shelter … We now strive for political needs, cultural understanding. Those views place us in the world.
Our environmental reflections on industry, and our continued understanding that people are also animals, has placed people as part of the world.
But perhaps despite that idealism, people no longer knows what they wants. We cannot simply exist as animals, purely from biological needs. People now need meaning and culture, and they are not wants. If they were wants people would not die, fight, or kill themselves for these reasons.
I strongly dislike the term Perceived Needs. The technical definition is fine, but the colloquial take on the term undermines how critical it is. However it is accurate as unlike biological needs, perception can be altered.
Recently the perception on pornography was forever altered as women became the largest consumers thanks to 50 Shades of Gray. Before that who could have predicted a children’s book would be the biggest seller, then came Harry Potter. I could of course site Darwin, or the idea that the world was flat …
The idea of a rift is what dissociates people from how they impact the planet through their actions. Meat consumption is not instantly associated with killing animals, packaging goes in a bin not associated with landfill, and as every child knows milk comes from a bottle, right?
We conduct business with money, and our financial or business considerations rarely relate to a greater depth of understanding of process and impact. An environmentalist could aim to deal with bringing our understanding back from a simplistic perception to an accurate one.
One example of this being done is bringing cigarettes away from simple packaging to brutal images that illustrate what cigarettes represent to more and more people, disease and death.
These actions remain symptomatic in most cases. Our pseudo-sustainable actions for example only do less harm, while people remain unsustainable. As Tony Fry puts it, this will continue as long as people feel like they are missing out, or having their freedoms taken away from them. New ideas to resolve issues cannot just be imposed, making education one of the most powerful transformative tools we have.
Altering the perception of many people can be done, if you want to do it. It often takes extreme occurrences though, and you have to take on everyone. What do you want to change in the world? Are you willing to go the distance?