While growing, I learned that human have 3 basic needs: meal, cloth and a house. If we look at the history, the basic needs sound reasonable. Nowadays, these basic needs has been transformed into desire of luxury and lavishness for human society, irrespective of their purchasing power. While searching for temporal joy and artificial peace, we, human badly ruined the nature including species, water resource and earth’s atmosphere. The question is, what if human, one day achieve all the luxury but, left with unclean air to breathe and dirty water to drink, what cost can be paid for making these resources useful. Isn’t seems that in those circumstances, the definition of basic need will change to clean water and pure air.

  • In Western philosophy, a way to approach this may be an investigation of the problem of human Will: for instance the contrast between Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on one side, and T. Adorno-M. Horkheimer and late Heidegger on the other side. – Gordon Apr 4 '18 at 13:35
  • The three basic needs: meal, cloth and a house have a common denominator: survival. When clean water and pure air will become ncessary for survival, they will become "basic needs" also. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 4 '18 at 14:39
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA, one might argue that clean water already is a part of meal. Moreover pure air also already is needed for survival, but it isn't in short supply and even is free. – rus9384 Apr 5 '18 at 22:00
  • How is this related to philosophy? This is just a general statement and overly broad, and leading, request for opinions. – CriglCragl Apr 6 '18 at 0:08
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    You needn't ask 'what if' since we are already in this position. Clean water and air are going to be the new luxuries. – PeterJ Apr 6 '18 at 12:09

The problem you describe is more complex. In any society, if 5% live a life of luxury, and 95% lead a simple life, the environment stays in balance. It's just that everyone would prefer to be within those 5% rather than in the 95%.

  • To be more exact: 1% are the masters, 4% are the buffer / luxury zone and 95% are the slaves wanting to be anywhere else but in the 95%. – Overmind Apr 17 '18 at 10:22
  • @Overmind, 0.01-0.0001% are the masters. – rus9384 May 5 '18 at 22:27
  • The top I meant. Of those, below 1% are the true masters no-one knows about. – Overmind May 7 '18 at 7:07
  • How many countries can you name that can boast a "balanced" environment? Even people who live "simple lives" can trash the environment, and the legendary 1% get rich largely by exploiting the environment. – David Blomstrom Jul 5 '18 at 3:19

The wording of your question makes it a little difficult to answer.

Basically, you claim that food, clothing and homes have traditionally been equated with quality of life. Though obviously important, clean air and water have long been taken for granted because of their sheer abundance.

But the importance of clear air and water is beginning to register as they become more scarce.

The crux of your question appears to be either 1) Is there a tradeoff? or 2) If so, what is the tradeoff?

There clearly is a tradeoff, and it's staggering; the very survival of humanity is increasingly in jeopardy. Even if we survive, the quality of life will continue to spiral downward.

A capitalist would say that a resource becomes more valuable (in financial terms) as it becomes more scarce. Simple common sense dictates that clean air and water (along with other environmental things) are becoming more valuable in more than economic terms.

The fact that many nations have created national parks and reserves, regulated the harvesting of natural resources and supported the Kyoto Protocol (all but the U.S., I believe) bears this out.

But this is the statement that confuses me:

The question is, what if human, one day achieve all the luxury but, left with unclean air to breathe and dirty water to drink, what cost can be paid for making these resources useful.

First, we can never achieve "all the luxury." The world's billionaires already have more luxury than they need, but even their quality of life index is diminishing. There are millions of poor people who can't get enough to eat, let alone luxuries.

But I'm not sure what you mean by "What cost can be paid for making these resources useful."

I assume the resources you're referring to are (clean) air and water. But what do you mean by making them useful? They're already useful. Or are you asking about the cost of restoring or purifying them?

And what do you mean by "What cost..."? Are you asking how much it will cost to clean up the environment?

  • Clean water was clearly not abundant during the parts of European history that allowed the English and the Germans to limit their death rates by preferring tea and beer to water. – jobermark Jul 20 '18 at 17:34

You have created a false dichotomy between a high quality of life and a low consumption of resources. The basic problem here is the existence of false scarcity.

You might note that the things you claim we value (food, clothing, shelter) over others (clean air and water) are things that given people are traditionally assigned to provide for others. The appetite served by all this consumption may not be greed or gluttony, but the need to feel important.

If so, then theoretically, we should be able to meet that need without expending so many resources. In particular, religion has historically often managed to make groups of people (either whole populations or selected communities like monks and nuns) happy to make do with less by creating a context, a story, or a struggle in which they feel more central.

From a pacifist POV like that of Starhawk, people complete to have far more than they need, more than they can legitimately enjoy, because they have become attached to a diseased form of the provider role tied up with a warrior mentality. Men only feel safe when they are offering their families more resource-intensive approaches to life, and women only feel safe when they see the products of that progress.

Those with access to power consolidate it and compete out of a misplaced sense that competing for the advantage of those close to them is their only possible role in a society, that if they stopped pursuing more and more, the world would stop providing for their loved ones, and we would all fall back into misery. They have acquired an addiction to power driven by a fear of powerlessness based on a history of scarcity. They feel that the only alternative to endlessly increasing luxury is the constant risk of misery.

By straightforward observation, this fear is baseless. If we accepted reality, we would see that we are in fact able to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone we have in a sustainable way as long as we stop growing the population, and we stop using ever-increasing ownership of goods as a source of meaning. But that requires some other way of meeting the primary need here -- social cohesion and belonging.

  • You lost me with your first sentence: "You have created a false dichotomy between a high quality of life and a reasonable consumption of resources." In fact, there's a very high correlation between quality life and consumption of resources. As Edward Abbey said, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell." – David Blomstrom Jul 5 '18 at 3:34
  • @DavidBlomstrom But correlation is not causation and high consumption of resources is neither necessary nor sufficient for a high quality of life. So there remains a false dichotomy. I don't care whether I 'lost you'... especially if you have no better argument than 'correlation implies causation." – jobermark Jul 5 '18 at 14:58
  • @DavidBlomstrom: "In fact, there's a very high correlation between quality life and consumption of resources." -> If you look up indices that do not consider wealth and income as necessary for happiness and thus beg the question (like the World Happiness Index), but try to measure actual (felt) happiness, like the Happy Planet Index (HPI), you will see that it is absolutely NOT caused by consumption of resources, nor bearing a high correlation with it. – Philip Klöcking Jul 5 '18 at 20:47
  • @PhilipKlöcking - Consumption of resources has a negative impact on the environment, and that impact can in turn have a huge impact on quality of life. Consider the difference between living in western Montana at the foothills of the Rockies vs living near a tree farm along a polluted river in the South. – David Blomstrom Jul 5 '18 at 21:11
  • I have edited out the Socialist and feminist stuff that seems to have made @DavidBlomstrom think this is a political argument rather than a psychological on. – jobermark Jul 5 '18 at 21:27

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