James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sustainability and "Need"

I left this comment on a FEE article on "sustainability."

It seems that this article conflates two issues. It blends a voluntary fund-raising charitable campaign with commentary on imperialism and coercion. It's not like the Peace Corps is going over there with my tax dollars, the young woman is raising her own money. And, she IS going to go there and learn the local situation; and her intent is to teach, not coerce. I agree that she probably didn't make a good case that this was necessary or worthy of you charitable contribution, but her intent isn't necessarily wrong or arrogant. In fact, I'd rather have this kind of "foreign aid" then the kind that makes me pay more taxes.

That said, there were good points to be made by author Mike Reid:

 The concept of “sustainability” depends on the assumption that humans have objective needs...
But what does a person “need”? What you need to survive is different from what you need to be happy or prosperous or loved.

What you need to live to age 60 is different from what you need to live to age 100. Where shall we draw the line?

Indeed, if we limit ourselves to the requirements for mere biological survival, a human’s needs could be met with a 6’x6’ concrete cell and a daily bucket of gruel...
 Because there is no objective definition of human needs, and because there is no objectively correct tradeoff between present and future wants, “sustainable agriculture” simply means conserving whatever amount of resources the 20-year-old expert visiting your village thinks you should conserve based on some notion she picked up in college. And this is where things get uncomfortable.
Entire piece here.

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