There is a hierarchy of human needs. This was first discussed by Abraham Maslow in the early 1960s. Diamandis and Kotler suggest that we need to update Maslow’s original pyramid with the Abundance pyramid.
There is a large segment of the human population that does not have the basics that are required for survival. They can be called…
The Bottom Billion
The poverty we see in the United States pales in comparison to the “bottom billion” – the poorest seventh of the human population. Large segments of humanity have to carry drinking water to their families, scavenge wood to cook the food they can find and lack access to what we consider basic sanitation. Helping them gain the basics will help us all – increased health for this segment means reduced infant mortality which in turn translates to smaller families. The ability to cook and heat homes without wood means less air pollution, better local health and of course, less deforestation (slowing the CO2 build-up).
Now, let’s take a look at the pyramid.
The Base – Water, Food and Shelter
The base of the pyramid consists of things that are required for human existence. People who do not have reliable access to these basic needs must take drastic actions to ensure their very survival and for the continuation of their families. Making sure the poorest people on the planet have these necessities will reduce suffering (in the forms of starvation, preventable illness and high infant mortality rates) beyond measure.
Reliable access to clean drinking water is by far the most basic need. Humans can not live more than a few days without water. We do not remain healthy if that water is not clean.
Only about 1% of the earth’s water is suitable for consumption. The rest is locked up in glaciers, the polar caps or seawater. Pollution (lack of sanitation as well as industrial pollution) reduces the drinking water supply even more. Even the most modern urban settings could quickly be overwhelmed by a break-down in basic sewage and garbage disposal.
Cost-effective desalinization and personal water filtration devices promise to increase the amount of locally available sanitary drinking water.
1 in 7 of us currently do not get enough to eat. How much worse will it be when the population is 2 billion more than it is today?
New (or maybe rediscovered) technologies are now available to grow more food and produce it close to where there are mouths to feed. Reducing the energy footprint of producing and getting food from “farm to fork” needs to become a priority.
The permaculture movement is one of those initiatives – the idea that we should grow as much of our on food as we can and stop wasting agricultural resources on ornamental lawns.
Reliable shelter means more than just protection from the elements. Shelter is also a family gathering place and “a place for your stuff”.
Next week, we conclude our look at the Abundance Pyramid