Green Impact Sheffield
The University of Sheffield

“It’s not what you want, it’s what you need…”


January 9th, 2014 - Posted under: Green Impact 2012/13 - Leave a Comment

Sustainable development: “ Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Brundtland Commission, 1987)

Like many demanding children, I can remember hearing the phase “it’s not about what you want but what you need”. I wanted to stay out late, I wanted everything my friends had and essentially I wanted my own way! Apparently what I needed was to do my homework, learn that money doesn’t grow on trees and appreciate the value of other people’s opinions.

Want and need are challenging words, even as an adult. Is society striving to meet the needs of today or the wants of today? Have we lost sight of a difference?

If need is as Bundtland described essential need (water, food, shelter, and possibly healthcare, education and employment), arguably my needs are being met. Has need become more than basic need though? With technology pushing boundaries ever further, is there a blurred line between wanting the latest technology and needing the latest technology to run our day to day lives?

John Donne, the 17th Century English Poet famously wrote, ‘no man is an island’. Before I’d even got to work this morning my choices had impacted the lives of several people I’ll never meet:   the people who grew my morning coffee beans, the people who mined the minerals in my alarm clock, the people who made my clothes. The list could go on. Do we ever meet our daily wants at the price of other people’s needs?

I’m not saying we should leave our jobs, destroy our gadgets and live in a field, but I am challenging myself to remember to consider sustainability in its fully integrated (social, economic and environmental) approach.  In today’s society, can I be more conscious of a need greater than my immediate own?

Question of the day: Are your needs being met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs?

Action of the day: Attend a SusSEd session to find out more about the wider context of sustainability



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